Mark Turner: Yam Yam

The Coltrane and Marsh disciple's 1994 debut album with Kurt Rosenwinkel and Brad Mehldau is reissued as a gatefold double LP


This was Turner’s debut as leader in 1994. Here, on vinyl, it’s been given a bright, fresh sound with masters and lacquers cut by Bernie Grundman, one of the few expert sound men around these days. The 70-odd minute programme now comes as a two-LP set in a gatefold cover.

Turner proves himself an original stylist, both as tenor saxophonist and composer. Tune Number One, basic as the title may be, is an attractive melody by Turner where he demonstrates a jazz style inspired by both Warne Marsh and John Coltrane. His gentle improvisation on this piece certainly recalls the Tristano school of jazz although his sound is lyrically hard as he constructs a sturdy solo.

Cubism has suspended rhythm in the manner of 60s Miles Davis, but it swings smoothly all through. Yam Yam, heard here in two distinct versions, is the nickname of Turner’s grandfather. The tunes on the album were mostly new at the time of recording. Turner wrote six compositions for the date, with one by Mehldau, one by Rosenwinkel (Cubism) and one by Coltrane.

Turner is always fresh sounding and uses the full range of his instrument on solo excursions. He improvises freely though on all the selections, riding securely on the support from the Brad Mehldau trio. Rosenwinkel is a sturdy guitar soloist.

Moment’s Notice is arguably the best track. Turner puts his own stamp on the theme although he keeps fairly close to Coltrane’s original tempo and the stop-start rhythmic pull of the piece. On Zurich, another contender for best track, additional tenor saxes – Seamus Blake and Terence Dean – join him. This is no tenor battle to the death though; all three tenors play gentle harmony together until the leader fashions a throbbing solo.

All this music is fascinating, fresh, original and worthy of an upmarket vinyl reissue. Michael Bourne’s original sleeve note has been retained and there is a new one from Brian Morton. Both seem in general agreement about the saxophonist and the music.

LP1: Tune Number One; Cubism; Yam Yam; Moment’s Notice
LP2: Isolation; Subtle Tragedy; Zurich; Blues; Yam Yam II (70.59 in total) 
Turner (ts); Kurt Rosenwinkel (elg); Brad Mehldau (p); Larry Grenadier (b); Jorge Rossy (d). NYC, 12 December 1994.
Criss Cross Jazz 1094