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.

Authors represented are H.G. Wells, Henry James, E.E. Cummings, Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling, J.W. Barrie, O. Henry, Robert Louis Stevenson, O. Henry, Lewis Carol, Jack London and Mark Twain.

With Bradford acting as narrator, lending her earthy alto voice to these stories, Mills and the band provide accompaniment that varies from sassy and swinging to mellow, from easygoing to melodramatic. No individual performances stand out, as it’s more about the bridging of the novels with original music. The overall orchestration carries more weight than any solos.

“Lady Vain” is culled from Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. Bradley narrates from the perspective of a stowaway aboard a ship, who witnesses a drunken starlet plunge to a watery death. “Darwin,” borrowed from Origin of the Species, is about mutant life forms.

Mills and Bradford worked together a lot during their early careers. Bradford spent many years with the Count Basie Orchestra, and Mills became a prolific studio player in Austin, Texas.

Mills composed all 13 tracks.