In a disappointing shift from 2000's Beauty Burning, vibraphonist Joe Locke enlists vocalist Mark Ledford and keyboardist/co-producer Henry Hey for the pop-oriented Storytelling. Surrounding Locke and Ledford is a solid jazz ensemble: Hey, saxophonist Tim Garland, bassist Eric Revis, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, and guitarist Paul Bollenback. But there's a preponderance of contrived rock and Motown covers, including an eye-rolling "I'll Be There." (Is there a need for another remake after Mariah Carey's?) The standards are given fluffed-up, unexceptional treatments, although the ensemble passages toward the end of "The Thrill Is Gone" are a brief ray of light. "Midnight Star," with original words and music (and piano playing) by Locke, unfortunately doesn't rise above the morass, nor does his "A Tale of Coincidence," the only instrumental track. There's some fine playing on the record. Tim Garland's tenor break on Bob Dylan's "Who Killed Davey Moore?" is a highlight, and every solo by Locke, Hey, and Bollenback is an unfailing display of expertise. Ledford's singing voice, too, can be quite appealing -- he sounded terrific on Don Byron's A Fine Line: Arias and Leider. But here he's saddled with lame material, and his presence rapidly becomes unwelcome.
by David R. Adler