Thursday, April 5, 2018

Peggy Lee - Echo Painting (SONGLINES May 18, 2018)

“…an enchanting mix…engages the heart with the simple, majestic wave of beautiful music…difficult to categorize, difficult to describe…with each subsequent recording, the music reveals itself as part of one long masterstroke.” (Dave Sumner, Bird is the Worm)

Peggy Lee, the Vancouver-based cellist whose playing shines in many contexts, from classical and contemporary classical to creative jazz and improv, is also an extraordinary composer and bandleader. She is known especially for her octets, The Peggy Lee Band (1998- ) and Film in Music (2009- ), as well as Waxwing (2007- ) the trio she co-leads with Jon Bentley and west coast guitarist Tony Wilson (a bowl of sixty taxidermists, Songlines 2015). This new suite for ten players was commissioned by Coastal Jazz and Blues and premiered at the 2016 Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Designed as a one-off, the project has since taken on a life of its own.

The idea, says Lee, was “to bring together some of my longstanding band members with some of the younger players that I had recently begun to collaborate with. I wasn't thinking about specific instruments really, just the players that I was excited about working with. The name to me simply speaks of our efforts to make sense of our world through artistic practice... And of course there are echoes of much of the music that has been meaningful to me over the years.” (She cites Carla Bley and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra as inspirations.) With many colors to draw upon, the music is multi-layered and texturally varied, featuring driving rhythmic vamps, incendiary improvisation and sometimes achingly beautiful melodic compositions.

The writing was mostly intuitive: “I worked out a loose plan designating areas for solos etc. But specific arrangements came together once we started playing and the direction that the solos took was completely up to the musicians…This band certainly has a lot in common with the sound of the Peggy Lee Band with the horns (Jon and Brad are in both ensembles), but adding violin and pedal steel creates another dimension. The Film in Music band feels quite different from both of these in that it was inspired by a particular show (Deadwood) and was meant to feature free improvisation in a more prominent way.”

Lee sees the distinctions between jazz and classical in her performing and writing as fluid: “I still work with the Vancouver Opera Orchestra and the new music ensemble Standing Wave and I feel that all this music is related to the music I make with improvisers. If the music moves me, whether it's a great melody by Puccini or Ennio Morricone or a cool texture notated by Nicole Lizée or a Brad Turner solo, it's all music and I don't care what you call it.”

As for the CD’s coda, The Band’s “The Unfaithful Servant”, “that's just a song that I've loved for a long time and always thought it would be a great vehicle for soloing of the right kind. We started by doing it as an instrumental but when it was time to record, I thought it would sound great with Robin and luckily she was game.”

Out On a Limb
A Strange Visit
Nice Collection
Painting Echoes
The Hidden Piece
WB Intro
Weather Building
End Piece
The Unfaithful Servant

Brad Turner, trumpet & flugelhorn
Jon Bentley, soprano & tenor saxophone
John Paton, tenor saxophone
Roderick Murray, trombone
Meredith Bates, violin
Cole Schmidt, electric & acoustic guitar
Bradshaw Pack, pedal steel guitar
James Meger, electric & acoustic bass
Dylan van der Schyff, drums, percussion & Yamaha RX-15 drum machine
Robin Holcomb, voice (track 13)

All compositions by Peggy Lee except tracks 7 (Bates, Lee, Schmidt, Meger), 10 (Meger, van der Schyff) and 13, words and music by Robbie Robertson
Recorded and mixed in 24 bits/96kHz