Classic literature finds its way into modern music. That’s part of the idea behind John Mills’ Invisible Designs (Fable Records, 2015).
The players are Carmen Bradford, vocals; Mills, soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, flute and bass clarinet; Jeff Hellmer, keys on all but three songs; Jim Beard, keys on “Invisible Designs,” “My Disagreeable Attitude” and “Darwin”; Eric Johnson, guitar on “Invisible Designs”; Mitch Watkins, guitar on “Banana King,” “Tidewater” and “Everything I Learned”; Jake Langley, guitar on “Lady Vain,” “My Disagreeable Attitude,” “Four Directions” and “Strictly Business”; Carter Arrington, guitar on “Napoleon” and “Let Your Brother Go”; Spencer Starnes, acoustic bass; and David Sierra, drums.
This is that rare commentary about a jazz recording that says little about the music and a lot about the words. Mills changed his approach to the project. Instead of composing music and creating lyrics to match, he wrote the words first. More than that, the songs originated with phrases borrowed from classic, public-domain novels. The lines evolve into ideas that may or may not have any connection to the stories from which they were adapted.