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Scenes: Destinations

Dan Bilawsky By

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There are wondrous stories to be found in everything the eye can see, the ear can hear, and the imagination can dream up. Scenes—the trio of guitarist John Stowell, bassist Jeff Johnson, and drummer John Bishop—has been readily and steadily making that point for more than fifteen years, harnessing natural beauty and concocting chimerical designs that extol the virtues of elasticity, mutability, and high-level communication. The Pacific Northwest knows no greater champion of its beyond-words beauty than this outfit.

Despite its title, Destinations isn't really about reaching endpoints and stopping at specific locales. Instead, it tends to focus on the journey, tracking the ways in which this trio travels and pulling at the fabric of expectations that come with the act itself. It's an absorbing blend of the real and surreal, true to life in a way that only music can be.

The conversational manner with which this trio operates, along with the establishment of a relatively even playing field, helps to elevate this trio to great heights. Whether moving in a nebulous realm on Johnson's "T.I.O," taking a classic like "You And The Night And The Music" to school, playing on bubbling grooves and lyricism with Tommy O'Donnell's "Psalm," or powering Miles Davis' "Solar" with a light touch and a fair amount of horsepower, the band manages to open doorways to new worlds.

Each song here is presented not simply as a tune or a structure, but rather as an opportunity for exploration and adjustable expression(s). That's just as clear on a loose-knit floater like Stowell's "Simple Pleasures" as it is on the strolling "Tapioca Time" or the gleefully glimmering, Western-themed "Long Prairie." Nobody is bound by traditional roles here and there are constant developments related to relational statements and depth of field in these pictures and performances. This band gets tighter and looser all at once with each and every album it delivers.

Track Listing: The Mandy Walk; Long Prairie; Solar; Für Heide; Pretty Boy Floyd; T.I.O; Psalm; You And The Night And The Music; Simple Pleasures; Tapioca Time.

Personnel: John Stowell: guitar; Jeff Johnson: bass; John Bishop: drums.

Title: Destinations | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Origin Records

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