Every summer at the Pt. Townsend Jazz Festival, I'm blown away by the brilliance of Seattle's New Stories.
The piano trio featuring Marc Seales and his rhythm team of bassist Doug Miller and drummer John Bishop are joined by New York heavyweights such as Don Dickler and Bobby Porcelli on a recently released tribute to the music of Elmo Hope called Hope Is In The Air (Origin).
Produced by Sickler and recorded by Rudy Va Gelder at the legendary Van Gelder Recording Studio in New Jersey, the CD is a showcase for New Stories' rhythmic sophistication and Hope's complex, mysterious compositions.
Hope died in 1967 at age 43, a too-little-known jazz giant closely associated with fellow bop legends Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk. This CD will go a long way toward re-establishing his importance as a composer.
New Stories playfully generate their trademark rubbery swing throughout, with Seales' minimalist keyboard lyricism driven by Bishop and Miller's subtle rhythmic accents.
Porcelli's alto sax contributes Bird-inspired, angular bop, and Sickler's thoughtful trumpet and flugelhorn add another tart voice to a couple of tracks that also feature Hope's widow, Bertha, on piano.
On This Sweet Sorrow, vocalist Roberta Gambarini is joined by the New York trio of Ronnie Matthews, Peter Washington and Kenny Washington. It's a spooky reinvention of Hope's Barfly.
It all adds up to a modern jazz classic by an important Seattle-based band and a crew of the Big Apple's jazz elite. Highest recommendation.