I've often thought of music in terms of color and pattern. This goes the other direction as well, when asked about the complexity of abstraction in art, I've often used music as a pathway to assist in visualizing. There can be shortcomings, of course, in reviewing or assessing with this technique, but in general, I find it's valuable for opening a door that can seem hard to open. I offer this lens in reference to the 20th anniversary re-issue of Speakin' Out by New Stories, featuring Marc Seales (piano), Doug Miller (bass), John Bishop (drums), and Ernie Watts (saxophone).
My initial reaction listening to this record was one of flavors reminiscent of the works of Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. "Highway Blues" and title track "Speakin' Out," feel loose, confident, as if they had always been there, waiting to be heard. Timeless and awash in perfect pacing, these are the gems of the disc. These two numbers play in colors of blues and purples, with moments of warm yellows and reds from Marc Seales on piano, and Ernie Watts on sax adding shades of orange flickering with reds to color "Highway Blues" and "Speakin' Out" masterfully.
"I Have A Dream" follows, a number penned by Herbie Hancock. It comes at you clean, dynamic, and expressive like a Franz Kline painting, bold patterns of black and white. The rhythm that John Bishop lays down is much like Kline, dynamic but not predictable. Charcoal hues, with dynamic piano work from Seales, play as the surface rumbles and bounces.
Carrying on those charcoal hues, perhaps similar as to what one might encounter from a Cy Twombly work, "In Her Family," a piece by Pat Metheny, is fast, darting, awake, restless, difficult, alive. Similar as well in scale to a Twombly painting, it's a long number, and perhaps a difficult one in context to the other works on this disc, it seems to be of its own place and idea.
Finishing out the album is "My One And Only Love," which highlights Doug Miller on bass. This is a perfect wrap, it rolls and bounces smoothly, the lines flowing in and around Miller's bass notes. Recorded and released in 1999, the 20th anniversary re-issue feels as new and timeless as if it had been released this year. Truly a classic work of Northwest greats putting together a seamless soundtrack together.