This is Ben Adams' third CD release, and unlike his previous two albums that showed him to be a soloist and band leader, this CD highlights his skills as a composer. All nine tracks on the album are original compositions in a variety of styles. Although the instrumentation is standard, a two-horn frontline with a rhythm section, the vibraphone doesn't play the normal role of a chordal instrument. Instead, Adams uses shifting tonal centers and progressive harmonies to keep the music flowing.
The album opens unconventionally with a sweet ballad entitled "Avery's Bedtime Story". The vibes set a dreamlike atmosphere while Gupta's cymbals add some splashes of color. Jekabson then plays a very lyrical solo over this background. "Conversation with Martin" is dedicated to Adams' poet colleague and was designed to display some of his argumentative nature. The melody line is very catchy with call backs between the two horns and Gupta. Marcus then plays a lively solo over the walking bassline, with continued interjections from Gupta. Adams and Randolph also contribute solos, although they are less extroverted than that of Marcus. "The Patron Saint of Lost Causes" has a soft Latin feel, where the lines are shaped alternately in uplift and depression. Adams' solo captures this contrast best with slight dissonances in his melody lines. Jekabson continues to play very lyrically as well. "The Actual" was inspired by Miles Davis' Prince of Darkness, and was written as a tribute to Wayne Shorter. Adams uses the rhythmic drive to play a hard bop solo that is somewhat difficult to follow, but entertaining nonetheless. Marcus then plays an out solo that shows his Wayne Shorter influences, and is contrasted almost completely by Jekabson's conventional bop solo. "Sheltered Circle" is a sixteen bar blues with some good swing solos. "Old Thoughts for a New Day" starts with a set of pensive harmonics that eventually grow into a brighter melody line. The whole song gives off a feeling of reminiscence, due primarily to Adams' haunting background lines and Randolph's evocative bass notes. "Pocket Fiction" is an exercise in time. The A section is in 4 with a bar of 2 at the end, and the bridge is in 3/4. The bass line walks while Adams plays a lilting, scalar solo. Marcus plays another extroverted solo that is again contrasted by Jekabson's classic bop lines. "Ghost of Infancy" has a staccato melody line. The style is copied in the horn players' following solos. The most rewarding part of the piece is Gupta's Max Roach-inspired solo, played over the rhythmic melody. The closer, "Sea of Cortez", is a reflection of Adams' sadness over the spoiling of a Mexican beach. Unlike the rest of the album, which has hints of melancholy or depression that are eventually uplifted, this song is one of inconsolable lamentation. The melody is at times a bit harsh, but each solo is poetic in its own right. Marcus' solo in particular sounds anguished. The track ends with a tail that gradually fades out with a cymbal roll. All in all, a very beautiful piece.
On the whole, this album has many innovative compositions, especially when one listens to the harmonies played by Adams. Although the horn solos are somewhat trite and the bass is difficult to hear on most of the charts, Adams' playing is worth hearing, and Gupta does a fantastic job both as a soloist and keeping the time and feel in line. The songs are easy to listen to, but have a lot of complexity to them as well. A good album to have.