The Peggy Lee Band
have to admit that I'm a fan of Peggy Lee, for obvious reasons: the way
she plays the cello, her composing style(s), her arranging skills are all
qualities that I find impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, being a fan
often entails being quite demanding when it comes to those whose work we
hold in high esteem, this being the reason why in my review of the most
recent album by The Peggy Lee Band, New Code (2009), I wrote that "New
Code is not (yet) the album that I firmly believe Peggy Lee has inside
big problem is that in order to grow a medium-sized line-up has to play
a lot of (paid) gigs, something which in the current climate is just an
illusion. So it was with a mixture of hope and fear that I waited for the
release of a new album by this octet (meanwhile, I happened to see Peggy
Lee's cello appearing here and there, the most recent example I know of
being the fine album of songs by Alicia Hansen titled Fractography). So
I can say that I'm very pleased that Invitation is such a superior work:
much better than New Code, it's an unqualified success - with just two
minor reservations. The reasons for the new album being so good are very
clear, as I'll state in a minute.
have a look at the line-up, which is the same as it was on the previous
album: Brad Turner on trumpet and flugelhorn, Jon Bentley on tenor sax,
Jeremy Berkman on trombone, Peggy Lee on cello, Ron Samworth and Tony Wilson
on guitars, Andre Lachance on electric bass, Dylan van der Schyff on drums
and percussion. Produced by Peggy Lee e Dylan van der Schyff, the album
was recorded by Eric Mosher at the Warehouse, a Vancouver, B.C., and mixed,
edited and mastered by Dylan van der Schyff in a place which goes under
the quite bizarre name of Zio Uovo.
recorded sound of Invitation is a lot better than the sound of New Code
- which wasn't bad at all. The obvious consequence being that the work
of the ensemble - besides sounding richer and more beautiful - is now easier
to appreciate, the rich instrumental palette of Peggy Lee's arrangements
being in full sight. Also, it appears to me that here Peggy Lee has successfully
managed to better integrate the compositional and the improvised dimensions
- while on the previous album three improvised episodes sat side-by-side
with nine compositions. The players just played better here - listen to
van der Schyff's work on cymbals, which has never been so clear and versatile.
Though quite diverse, the compositional range never lacks coherence, with
more than a few themes reminding me of (for lack of better word) "chamber
music". Also lotsa jazz is to be found, especially in the fine solos
by the winds.
only minuses here (but I had to look long and hard) being a playing time
that goes a bit too long (this, to me, often dilutes an album's impact,
though I'm aware of the fact that some people regard a CD whose playing
time is that of an LP as a sign of one being stingy), and a couple of solos
I'd have a hard time defining as "indispensable" (but here I
think the leader's intention being to give each player his moment under
have a look at the pieces.
A warm opening as per its title, Invitation sounds a bit like "chamber
music", a mid-tempo episode featuring a brief, and inviting, trumpet
solo, and a solo on tenor sax. Fine colours on cymbals, and a
Why Are You Yelling? is a long piece with many episodes. There's a "noisy" opening
section for electric guitar on the left channel (Tony Wilson?), then we
jump to a "swinging theme"
that reminded me of The ICP Orchestra - the drumming here is not too far
from Han Bennink's, with percussive timbres and splashing cymbals - with
"noisy" guitar backing. A "fanfare" with agitated cymbals
takes us to a long part for solo trombone, quite thematic, which is joined
by the leader's cello. The tenor takes us back to the "swinging" theme,
then there's a melody with a guitar arpeggio, cello, cymbals, stop.
Your Grace has an opening for cello playing
"rubato". There's a lyrical entrance for tenor, trumpet, bass,
and cymbals. Theme, and a very fine cello solo backed by guitar arpeggios.
(This track reminded a bit of Kenny Wheeler.)
The long track titled Chorale opens with a long percussive episode, with a
cymbal played arco, wood objects with echo, a cymbal with brushes. There's
a slow opening from the ensemble. An arpeggio that sounds a bit "Fripp-like" on
the left channel acts as a backdrop for a (scored?) improvisation of many
colours. Then it's back to the theme for the ensemble.
Path Of A Smile is maybe the most "jazzy"
number on the album, a mid-tempo with a trumpet solo that reminded me of
Miles Davis. There's a "generic" bass solo, theme.
Not So Far opens with what to me sounds like a collective improvisation, then
a guitar arpeggio and a fine cello take us to a lyrical-sounding melody
for trumpet, sax, and trombone.
The long track Little Pieces starts with tenor, then cello, an acoustic guitar
arpeggio, a rhythm for cymbal, theme for tenor, then trumpet. This piece
features a theme that to me sounds as mixing folk e il c&w (!) motives,
and which to me doesn't sound too distant from first-period Nucleus - the
line-up featuring Chris Spedding on guitar - also Jukka Tolonen's "folk-fusion".
There's a nice 12-string solo by Ron Samworth: first a bass riff that's
doubled by guitar, then the 12-string solo. The ensemble envelopes the
music, then it's back to the theme.
You Will Be Loved Again is a cover of a song by Mary Margaret O'Hara which
I've never heard. There's a fine guitar through a volume pedal, played
bottleneck, then cello, theme. Ensemble, fine cymbals, trumpet, cello.
There's a guitar solo - a bit Frisell-like - on the left channel, then
it's back to the ensemble. Fine cymbals!
Punchy starts with an ostinato, then we can hear a theme that to me is quite
a bit Mingus-like, the tenor up front, clearly backed by a ride cymbal,
then it's time for a tenor solo with a "noisy"
guitar in the background (a bit à la Arto Lindsay?). Then we are back to
"Mingus" theme, followed by a "fusion" solo on guitar
which to me is far from being memorable. Theme
End Waltz has a fine melodic opening for guitar, another guitar toying with
echo. Waltz time, the tenor, winds and cello. Fine trumpet solo. Theme.
In closing, it's back to the echo guitar.
Last piece on the album, Warming has a contagious theme for winds, with a fine
backing by electric bass, that reminded me a lot of the late, great Chris
McGregor, with a guitar solo (by Tony Wilson?) taking the place of Mongezi
Feza's trumpet or Dudu Pukwana's alto.
© Beppe Colli 2012
| Nov. 5, 2012