An interview with
Peggy Lee (2009)
By Beppe Colli
Feb. 16, 2009
As I've already argued at length in my review,
the recently released fine album titled New Code was for me the perfect
occasion to listen again to Peggy Lee's cello, compositions, and arrangements
- Peggy Lee being the Vancouver-based musician that I'd really like to
see playing all over the world with her vivacious octet.
And since in a previous occasion I had already
asked her about all that was essential about her artistic growth and career,
up to four years ago, I decided to get an up-to-date version of the story.
Peggy Lee kindly accepted my request, and
our conversation took place - via e-mail - last week.
It's been a while
since we last talked... In fact, four years have passed! It goes without
saying that I'm quite curious to know about it all, starting with the
only thing I know for sure, i.e., your being a part of the Wayne Horvitz-led
Gravitas Quartet. Talk about this.
This is a really special
group in terms of the instrumentation, the instrumentalists and Wayne's
compositions. The combination of trumpet, bassoon, cello and piano
is highly unusual in any music and it might be difficult to blend but Wayne
has assembled a beautiful group (featuring Ron Miles on cornet and Sara
Schoenbeck on bassoon) and we are almost always able to play completely
acoustically which I love. His compositions are always sensitive to the
strengths of the musicians without pigeonholing us into one role and I
am constantly challenged and inspired by the music and by the players.
Any other projects
you were/are a part of that I don't know about?
Well in terms of improvised
music, I have done some very nice tours with a trio led by Larry Ochs with
Miya Masaoka and a record has just been released on Rogueart called Spiller
Alley. Alex Cline also has a record out with a new group that I'm a part
of on Cryptogramophone called Continuation. I also released a trio record
with Tony Wilson and Jon Bentley on Drip Audio. And then there are the
ongoing groups that I work with in Vancouver and the job of raising kids!
Your new CD, New
Code, is book-ended by two cover versions of compositions by Bob Dylan
and Kurt Weill... quite an unusual pair! Would you mind talking about
the way these artists were/are important for you, also about the process
that led you to arrange, and perform, those particular pieces?
Well Bob Dylan was a
very early influence long before I even considered making music of my own
and I've always loved that tune so it felt right to do it. In terms of
the arrangement, I wanted to showcase the full and joyous sound of the
octet and to see where the soloists would take the tune. We often open
with this piece and it feels great.
Kurt Weill has been
a more recent influence. I've had the opportunity to work on his music
in various projects with a group called Talking Pictures and Lost in the
Stars is just such a beautiful tune. At first I didn't really know what
to do with it beyond arranging it for the group but then I decided to feature
Brad up front while the group cycles on 8 measures from the end of the
tune and I just love what he plays. It's a highlight for me.
Your sextet is now
an octet. Please, discuss.
Well I'd been working
with Tony and Jon in the trio and I decided to do a special concert where
I brought the two groups together and once I'd heard that sound, I found
I couldn't go back!
I imagine that having
a line-up of six, or eight, musicians playing this music is not all fun
and games, in Vancouver or anywhere else. What's the current economic
reality you have to deal with?
The reality is that
we hardly ever play live.
I notice that in your
review you say that this is not the album I have in me... well that may
be so, but I also feel that this group has only tapped into the very tip
of it's potential. I imagine that if we were to play a number of gigs in
a row we would find ourselves in a whole new arena.
I think the arrangements
on the new album are a bit more complex/involved than those on your previous
CDs, also your cello comes out quite strong and clear... Is it all due
to a better recorded sound, or are they really richer, this time?
Hmmmm. I don't really
I was used to seeing
your albums on Spool, I'm afraid I've never heard of Drip Audio...
Drip is run by the multi-talented
and extremely sought after violinist, Jesse Zubot. He is a brilliant musician
and I don't know how he does it but the label is flourishing.
To me, it sounds
like this time you had the improvisations as separate pieces, and the
other tracks more in the written mode... Am I right? Provided I am, what's
the rationale about this?
Well there is still
a lot of improvising within the tunes but I guess less completely open
playing within a given composition. No reason really.
Is it the best of
times, is it the worst of times, for music that goes beyond the usual?
I suppose it has slowed
down for those who are used to being constantly on the road but that's
not something I've wanted to do so I'm happy with current projects and
I feel that the audience for this music will always be there regardless
of the economic or political climate.
Last time we talked,
I asked you about the way you saw the Web (in its various guises) when
it comes to the evolving patterns of consumption on the part of the audience.
I'm curious about your current position on this.
I'm not sure what this
Anything you'd like
Thanks for your interest
I will now attempt to
attach a photo...
© Beppe Colli 2009
| Feb. 16, 2009