The Seattle-based trio New Stories - with a little help from some friends, and under the producer's baton of trumpeter Don Sickler - has crafted a first rate document to the undersung bop composer/pianist Elmo Hope on Hope is in the Air.
Elmo Hope, back in bop's early days, hung with piano legends Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. According to Nellie Monk, he was Thelonious's favorite contemporary composer, though the sound presented here, especially on the uptempo numbers, seems much closer to Powell's, with a real "Bud Bounce" on the bright "Dee-Dah."
New Stories - pianist Marc Seales, bassist Doug Miller, and drummer John Bishop - freshen up this set of bop jewels while maintaining the musical spirit and sense of experimentation and wonder of the early days of bebop. They open the disc with "Sims A Plenty," with Bobby Porcelli sitting in on alto saxophone, blowing with a freewheeling finesse on this uptempo romp. Seven of the fourteen tunes are trio workouts, ranging from the bright and upbeat "Dee-Dah" to the hauntingly, delicately gorgeous ballad "Stars Over Marrakech," which features some of drummer John Bishop's subtle yet complex colorings. Indeed, the New Stories Trio, on the two back-to-back ballads "Eyes So Beautiful As Yours" and "Stars...", serve up the disc's pensively engaging ten-minute highlight, sounding searchingly abstract and, remarkably, almost impossibly cohesive.
Altoist Porcelli sits in on three more numbers besdies the opener, and producer Sickler duets with pianist Bertha Hope - Elmo's widow - on the two closers, "Monique" and Three Silver Quarters." And slip in Roberta Gambarini's bittersweet vocals on "This Sweet Sorrow," known instrumentally as "Barfly," and you've got a good feeling for Elmo Hope's marvelous but almost forgotten music.