Although, according to their publicity, Story City had its beginnings all the way back in 2008 when drummer Steve Jennings got together with saxophonist Andrew Schwandt, guitarist Karl Koopman, and keyboard player Fred Goetz to play a little fusion jazz “just for the fun of it,” Time and Materials, the group’s soon-to-be-released album seems to be the first recorded result of that collaboration. Named after the Iowa town where Jennings’ great-great grandparents settled in 1870, Story City has developed over the years into an octet. Jennings, Schwandt and Koopman remain from the original 2008 group; they are joined by keyboardist Sean Turner, Terry Burns on bass, Steve Faison percussion and a little vocalise, Shai Hayo percussion, and Dave Schmalenberger on marimba, vibes and xylophone. It is a tight group with a highly imaginative point of view.
Time and Materials has nine original tracks—four each composed by Schwandt and Burns and one by Koopman. The music is true fusion in the largest sense. You can hear classical elements followed later by a rocking saxophone and a wailing guitar in the almost 11-minute extravaganza, “Truth to Power.” Songs like “Hilltop” and “Lead Sky” show off the band’s lyrical introspective side. Koopman’s guitar is something special on both. “Loops” has elements of rocking minimalism, before the sax kicks in. “Time and Materials,” the title song, gets a bit spacey at times. “Fitzwright Inn” adds a funky vibe that will make you forget the punning title, and features some nice sax and bass work, not to mention the percussion. But for all the external influences, the heart of the music is in the jazz. It is the one ingredient that holds everything else together.
That is the art of Story City—their ability to take all these different strains and meld them together into a unified voice. There is an art to merging different styles so that they have some kind of coherence. Story City has nailed it. Time and Materials is an album you will want to spend some time with. More importantly, it is an album that will reward you for that time—the more time, the greater the reward.