Evocative. Soulful. Regretful. Plaintive. But in no sense downbeat. Oddly edifying, joyful in places. Steve Million
's compositions and Sarah Marie Young
's voice were plainly intended to blend. And they do so in an emotionally stirring landscape of the heart which is powerfully affecting. You find yourself conjuring up quiet journeys, emotional and otherwise, from the past. Wintry, yes, but hopeful too. This is music of the heart, by and for the heart.
Starting out with "Heavens to Monkitroid" is, perhaps, more than a little deceptive. Million's stridish piano gives way to a flat out mini-swinging small group which recalls early The Manhattan Transfer
. Jim Gailloreto
's sax and Million's piano bridge the way into a scat chorus and some inspired trading of fours. Very tasty. "Mis'ry Waltz" takes us to church via a soulful blues, "Missing Page" conjures up another Gailloreto solo, getting its verve from shifting metres and the colors of Young's voice. "Hymnal" is aptly named and, by the way, the lyrics of these compositions are thoughtful explorations of the composer's inner world. The story is in the telling, and so is the music. "Nikka's Changes" gives drummer Juan Pastor
a chance to solo against a sort of vamp, and he makes the most of it. In "Cold Wind," it is bassist John Sims
' turn, with Gailloreto on flute helping to weave an audibly dense texture: "a cold wind blows through a life sometimes restlessly" repeats to the fadeout. It is an effective device. "Loss" and "The Way Home" close out the journey, with an especially melancholy solo by Gailloreto. "The Way Home," by contrast, concludes on an optimistic note.
There is a kind of sustained journey metaphor throughout the lyrics, from a random encounter to a kind of affirmation that emotionally honest people can always find their way through a difficult life. As Hemingway said, "Isn't it pretty to think so?" Music can pose the question, even if it cannot answer it.