Storybook, the debut album from Austin-based guitarist Tommy Howard, has been a long time coming. At a time when technology and social media attention are enabling musicians to continually record and release content, Howard's old world approach combines patience, humbleness, and dedication to his craft. "This record is the culmination of playing jazz music for the last 25 or so years," explains the soft-spoken guitarist, "I finally reached the point where I felt I had something to say as a composer, something to say as an improviser." Armed with a classic, clean jazz guitar tone and backed by a swinging team of Daniel Durham on bass and Brandon Guerra on drums, Howard spins his tale with poise, confidence, and the wisdom of a seasoned pro.
Storybook's eight original tunes, bookmarked by the hip hop influenced groove of "Prologue" and "Epilogue", each represent a chapter in Howard's life. "In Paris In Love"- named for his honeymoon and first trip to Europe — opens with a subtle tension and release before settling into it's half time pocket, not unlike finding one's bearings on a new adventure in a foreign land . The lyrical "Tune For Lex" follows, sounding like something Cole Porter might have written with its easy swing and Tin Pan Alley form. It's a perfect vehicle to demonstrate just how tastefully the trio plays together. "The Ritual" opens with a brief intro by the leader, dropping a hint of the blues to set up the gospel ballad feel that follows. "I wrote this one thinking about the ceremonial nature of taking out the guitar and practicing every day." Howard's solo elevates the band to an exciting peak without ever needing to blow the top off. The mood transitions into a lush, mellow chord-melody solo written for his wife, aptly titled "Poem For Lizett," with an achingly beautiful melody landing on unexpected harmonies, which creates a long arc over the briefest piece on the record.
To record Storybook, Howard worked with bassist Daniel Durham and drummer Brandon Guerra, both known as some of Austin's top rhythm section players. "The three of us have similar tastes about music," Howard comments, "Daniel always plays what the song needs, and is very melodic in his bass lines." Guitarists and drummers always share a special connection in a band, and Guerra serves Howard's songs perfectly. "He never sacrifices the groove to show off. He has a great pocket, and perfectly compliments the tunes I've written."