New Stories

Circled by Hounds

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Originally released in 1994 and reissued on the Origin label, this is New Stories' initial foray into the studio. In addition to being a fine session in and of itself, it also served as a harbinger of what was to come for this Seattle-based group. There was a Grammy-nominated album with Mark Murphy, sessions with top sax players, including Don Lanphere, as well as more albums under their own name. Formed in 1988 and composed of pianist Marc Seales, bass player Doug Miller, and John Bishop on drums, the group is a study in introspection and intensity as they wend their way through a play list of pop and jazz standards and originals. The initial track, "The Gingi," sets the tone for the session. Seales' hard-working piano takes the lead with a foundation laid down by Miller's rumbling bass and interrupted from time to time by Bishop's drum accents. More ruminative explorations take place on "Wholly Here, Holly Hear," which has a weightlessness about it usually associated with the music of Frederic Delius. The seven-plus minute exploration of "Stella by Starlight" is one of the album's highlights. Seales takes off in several different improvisational directions, from a gentle rendering of the melody to adventurous improvisional excursions, all buttressed with understanding support from his playing companions. During this presentation, both the work of the melodic Bill Evans Trio and the jagged rhythms of Thelonious Monk are recalled. While Marc Seales' piano is the lead instrument throughout, bassist Miller has sufficient opportunities to chip in with deft bass solos on such cuts as his own "Before Dawn" and on the medley of "The Thumb" and "Bluesology." This is piano trio work at its innovative and commanding best. Recommended.

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