This 9-song set features 7 superb originals from the pens of principals Brent Jensen (alto) and Rob Walker (flugelhorn), alongside gorgeous takes on "It Could Happen To You" and, especially, "You Go To My Head." Backed by the New Stories Trio of pianist Marc Seales, bassist Doug Miller and drummer John Bishop, Jensen and Walker bring clever compositions, tight arrangements and outstanding performances to the program. This gem is loaded with no-frills straight ahead playing by five well versed and extremely talented players. Walker studied with Herb Pomeroy and David ëFathead' Newman. Jensen is heavily inspired by Miles Davis, at least on this recording. The New Stories trio is likewise nothing less than extra ordinary. Drummer John Bishop, particularly, is one of the finest on the scene.
The opening "Straight From Miles," with exquisite tandem work, showcases Walker's soaring flugelhorn on lines that are, indeed, straight from the Miles book. Jensen's alto is fluid and imaginative here, as well, though not so much as on the following feature version of "It Could Happen To You," on which he shines. Seales drops a delicious solo in the middle, followed by an impressive break from Miller, before returning it back to Jensen. For the title tune, the assembled remind of nothing less than classic Blakey, with Walker playing Lee Morgan style and Jensen blowing tasty counterpoint. Seales again dazzles, with the rhythm team working hard on the bottom. "Evan's Pen" opens with a pensive piano, accented by Bishop's wonderful cymbal work, breaks into elastic lines from the horns, and returns to Seales' outstanding pianistics. For the "street samba" of "Danza Callejera" the players bring a Latin groove to the set. Everyone shines, with solos aplenty.
The mellow version of "You Go To My Head" has Jensen in an introspective, emotive mode. Walker sits this one out and lets New Stories stretch with the saxophonist. Walker's harmonic, sometimes modal "Dewey's Steps" (think Miles Dewey Davis and "Seven Steps To Heaven") dances with colors and shapes. Jensen's "Anne Rose" is a beautiful ballad on which the composer plays with authority. On Walker's closing "Later," the Latin groove returns, though with a more subtle palette that that on "Danza."
One of the standout discs of 2004, this comes highly recommended to fans of straight ahead jazz by five master artists of the groove.