For their second album, the New Stories trio pretty much follows the same blueprint it used for its first album for setting its program, mostly originals with a few pop and jazz standards added on. The major difference from the initial outing is the addition of hard blowing tenor sax man Ernie Watts on some of the tracks. When he's there, he forces a change in the group's playing modus operandi. With hard bopper Watts on board, there's little time for the kind of introspection heard on their first release. Watts clearly challenges the group to loosen up and let it all hang out, which it does on such cuts as "The Jordy Strut." But this is not entirely a hard blowing session. The one pop standard, "My One and Only Love" gets a melodic working over, led by Marc Seales' gently foraging piano. This cut is one of several where Doug Miller shows he is a true virtuoso on bass. His role is in no way limited to the traditional four to the beat rhythm, but is melodically expansive. Watts sits this cut out. He also sits out a finely chiseled interpretation of a song not recorded nearly enough, "So Near, So Far." The same can't be said of Pat Metheny's "In Her Family," which, despite the efforts of the trio, rambles. Watts returns on a strong, compelling performance of Miller's "Speakin' Out." This piece recalls some of the dissonance work of the Thelonious Monk Quartet when Charlie Rouse was the horn player. Somewhat more adventurous than their first outing, this album solidifies New Stories as a leading member of the modern piano jazz trio fraternity.
Speakin' Out Review
by Dave Nathan