1. Drake Place
3. Fitzwright Inn
4. Time And Materials
5. Truth To Power
7. Lead Sky
9. Silent Joe.
Andrew Schwandt - Saxes
Karl Koopmann - Guitar
Steve Jennings - Drums
Terry Burns - Bass
Sean Turner - Piano, keyboards
Steve Faison - Percussion, vocals
Shai Hayo - Percussion
Dave Schmalenberger - Marimba, vibes, xylophone
Jazz rock - or what we now call jazz fusion or even fusion music - is alive and well in the hands of Story City, a group of musicians who got together in 2008 to try out some fusion jazz "just for the fun of it". The group is named after the town in Iowa where Steve Jennings' ancestors settled in 1870.
Jazz fusion can be a rather boring series of funky outings with mechanistic rhythms but this octet introduces plenty of variety, typified by the title-track, where the tempo shifts subtly and different instruments flow in and out of the mix. Time and Materials was written by guitarist Karl Koopmann and, in a way, his playing tends to dictate the style of the band. Karl's guitar sounds very like Pat Metheny's, and the group often resembles Metheny's bands - especially in the way that both ensembles value melody. The melodies are not always easy to distinguish, as there are so many strands in the playing, but the music is always melodic.
The multiple strands are assisted by the range of instruments - from Sean Turner's keyboards to Andrew Schwandt's saxophones. Andrew's swirling solos add to the appeal of the opening Drake Place, one of four pieces composed by Terry Burns. Terry's other compositions include the ten-minutes-plus Truth to Power, a monumental piece which starts mysteriously but keeps breaking out into dynamic jazz-funk. There are also elements of mystery in Terry's Silent Joe, where his bass guitar adds to the atmosphere.
The other main composer on this album is Andrew Schwandt, whose Gratitude borrows Pat Metheny's device of putting wordless vocals against an instrumental, increasing its effect. His other compositions are more in the jazz-funk mould, although the memorably-titled Fitzwright Inn has a nice gyrating feel about it.
If you thought that jazz fusion was yesterday's music, this album should make you think again. It is a fresh as a newly-cooked loaf of French bread.