Great music is a journey. A constantly changing story that unfurls its own road as it takes the listener—and the musicians—from one surprising moment to the next. We encounter this most in musics that emphasize improvisation, like jazz and various Asian and Middle Eastern traditional musics. Yet even the most structured pieces by the most archetypal composers will reveal something new every time they are played or heard. Rarely does one find a band in which these two roads—the esoteric, improvised approach and that of the well-crafted song—intertwine and coexist. But for the ideally named New York-based band Wayfarer it's this exact synthesis that informs the group's high-reaching yet deep-seated sound.

Wayfarer's journey began in late 2005, a few hours up the Hudson River from New York City, with a performance by singer-songwriter Timothy Hill. Joining him on the occasion were guitarist Brandon Ross and bassist Doug Weiss. Hill and Ross had met a few years earlier and had talked about forming a group; Weiss had been Hill's bassist of choice for a decade. The chemistry was complete when percussionist Jeff Haynes joined at the last minute. Haynes and Weiss had met and played together on Lizz Wright's debut album (produced by Brian Blade) a few years earlier; Ross and Haynes had been a part of Cassandra Wilson's sound for many years.

"It was the first time all four of us had played together and right away, there was this deep connection," recalls Hill. "It was a magical and memorable night." In the months afterward, Ross and Hill wondered if perhaps this was the group they had planned to form. Finally, in the spring of 2007, all four convened at Haynes' home studio in Beacon, NY for a day of playing music. "Jeff said, ‘I'll just put up a few microphones to document what happens,' " continues Hill. The recordings made that day convinced them that this was the direction they were looking for. "I think what makes us all work so well together is that we've had such varied paths."

Indeed, Wayfarer is a band whose searching music perfectly mirrors the artistic travels of its members. A student of Hindustani Classical vocal music, Hill began as a folk musician before starting new music outfit the Glass Orchestra (and performing with John Cage); joining overtone singing ensemble David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir; having peak musical encounters with Bill Frisell, Keith Jarrett, and Jeff Buckley; and releasing three solo albums. Ross is perhaps best known for his ongoing tenure with Cassandra Wilson; a decade-long stint in visionary composer Henry Threadgill's ensembles and as co-leader of avant-rock power trio Harriet Tubman, but he has also worked with Jewel, Arrested Development, Leroy Jenkins, the Lounge Lizards, and Meshell Ndegeocello, to name a few. Fellow Cassandra Wilson sideman Haynes has performed with Pat Metheny, Al Jarreau, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger and Samite of Uganda; and Weiss, besides being the bassist of legendary drummer Al Foster, has played with Joe Williams, Lee Konitz, Brian Blade, and the Kevin Hays Trio.

As Hill points out, this collective experience continues to shape Wayfarer's deep world soul music, as tracks from the band's forthcoming debut so astonishingly bear out. There's "Heal My Heart," a breezy Brazilian groove whose snaking guitars turn into unknown corners as its soaring lyric offers romantic consolation. And "Wallflower Waltz," a tender meditation about, "trying to hold onto something that's disintegrating, finding a thread of faith." But it's the quartet's versions of George Harrison's "Love Comes to Everyone" and John Coltrane's "Dear Lord"—highlighted, respectively, by Hill's exotic ocarina and harmonic singing—that best display the group's highly exploratory, genre-spanning method.

"Wayfarer's music has this really nice forward motion," says singer Rebecca Martin, who has worked with several of the band's players over the years. "It's beautiful and ‘floaty,' but also very grounded." "Playing with a group is all about having great chemistry," says Ross. "And after experiencing it with other groups, I've learned that great chemistry is not so common. But all the experience the musicians in this band have makes it really easy for the music to go to different places."

Different places. New places. Amazing places. For Wayfarer the journey has just begun. And it's one no listener should miss.