They crest along sound waves, escape between murmuring lips, and dwell within the subconscious. Simple stories exist in the space between black holes. They linger, provoke a smile or a tear, then get swallowed up into the abyss. On Simple Stories pianist/composer Deidre Rodman tells her tales with lush, personal, careful compositions.
"Girl With Ponytails" traverses a sound spectrum. Beginning with a pulse that beats slower than the human heart, the piano and rustling drums gracefully arouse low blood pressure. Before long Tony Malaby and Russ Johnson enter on saxophone and trumpet, taking their places beside Bob Bowen’s walking bass line, and the quartet flings itself into bebop. The horns flirt around the tonal center for a bit before restating the theme, then drop by the wayside, clinging to Rodman’s coat tails as she leads the group into a blissful, playful dance.
About half the tracks feature vocals. Rodman's lyrics explore a sense of place, with descriptive images of neighborhoods, nature, and seasons. Luciana Souza’s fervent, focused voice adds confident sophistication to the tunes. Often complimented by Johnson's long, plaintive trumpet lines, or Rodman's glimmering piano snatches, the Brazilian singer appears on three tracks. "Cobblestone" conjures lonely, romantic scenes from a damp Parisian dusk. "Sleeping Ground" builds to a throbbing crescendo as it questions the magnitude of human relations when distance comes between them.
All five instrumentalists mesh exquisitely, venturing at times into the grinding clench of jam band terrain. But there is also a solemn, contemplative element to the album. Malaby opens "Bodhi" with a long, sad statement on his saxophone. He overlays Mark Ferber’s clinking percussion, and it resembles a soundtrack to an ancient narrative. Rodman takes up the melodica, trading the melody with the horns.
Three parts comprise "Garden Suite." Rodman plays with her piano strings in the first section, "Breeze." The song goes through a stiff, intentionally awkward transition before the saxophone and trumpet ease the tone into sympathetic territory with a slow, low, meander together. Suspicious percussion adds mystery and the piano perks up for the second part, "Stroll." The entire piece is very reflective, with the saxophone following the higher register of the trumpet, Bob Bowen bowing his bass, and Ferber shooting shards of metallic waves into the audio realm for the last section, "Stars."