Mark Turner: Return from the Stars review – out of this world

The American saxophonist’s ace quartet rise to the challenge of his demanding compositions with real flair

Light of tone and phenomenally agile, the sound of Mark Turner’s tenor saxophone is so beguiling that I’d happily listen to him playing from a book of exercises. His own music, though, is quite demanding. That means you have to pay attention and occasionally lose the plot, which is no bad thing. It sounds even better the second time around. His quartet is completed by trumpet (Jason Palmer), bass (Joe Martin) and drums (Jonathan Pinson). The absence of a piano or any other harmony instrument leaves a lot of open space, which they exploit with subtlety and imagination.

All eight pieces are composed by Turner; he determined the general atmosphere of each, writing part of the music in advance. Beyond that it’s a mutual process. The interplay between Turner and Palmer is quite superb, two melodic lines moving between harmony and dissonance, yet always in touch, always on the same journey. And, with ECM’s fabled clarity, you can follow it all closely. The album was inspired by a sci-fi novel of the same name by Stanisław Lem. You don’t need to have read it to enjoy this music to the full.

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