With an urbane, beautifully harmonic, clean-edged sound, Portal seems an updated brand of West Coast cool, by way of the Northwest (Seattle) this time around, like a mix of Chico Hamilton's chamber bands, the fluid guitar work of Wes Montgomery, and that dry, cool approach of Paul Desmond's sax work stirred up in one groove-oriented band. Dave Peterson's guitar combined with George Cables' piano kick the harmonic mix up a notch or three on a set that depends more on the group sound than it does out-in-front soloing.
"Rhythm Tune" showcases drummer John Bishop's complex and engaging percussion work; and I must admit it took a couple of spins of the disc to appreciate his stuff. He rides with the flow and doesn't call attention to himself, with a busy style that weaves all manner of textures behind the soundscape. The more I listen to other Origin discs on which he plays (Brent Jensen/Rob Walker Quintet with New Stories), the more apparent the importance his contribution to the group sound becomes.
With the exception of "Mr. Schmeil," a two minute bass solo by Deardorf, and the closer, Wayne Shorter's "Ana Maria," the tunes are all Dave Peterson originals, full of sharp gleaming edges and shining facets and neat grooves, catchy, stick-in-the-head melodies, and a very accessible sound that reveals deeper complexities on multiple listens. It's a great group sound that rewards separate spins just to listen to each member's individual contribution.