Vancouver cellist and composer Peggy Lee has reassembled her band for a session of mellow, west-coast music as pleasant as the landscape and climate of that gorgeous Canadian city. Along with Lee's drummer and life partner Dylan van der Schyff, there are some of the usual suspects from the local scene coming together for some welcome moments of peace and good vibes all around.
Guitarists Tony Wilson and Ron Samworth, usually full of gnash and burn are relatively tame for the most part here, blending/bending to the sing-able almost pop-like hooks that the cellist has penned, but their distinctive personalities tear through in spots, as in the opening minutes of "Why Are You Yelling," which features a dynamic duo between them before the band launches into a pseudo-ragtime ironic romp that is all tricky cross rhythms, or in the beautiful chaos of "Not So Far." First call trumpeter Brad Turner brings his lyrical and muscular tone, teaming with trombonist Jeremy Berkman and saxophonist Jon Bentley (playing tenor on this date). Trumpet and bone bring a soft glow, while the strings bring both bite and warmth, Lee, herself being both very edgy and very lyrical, clear evidence of which can be found in a tune like "Your Grace."
Simple sounding, air-play-friendly arrangements are the unifying feature of the 11 tunes here, but — as expected from these risk-taking musicians — there are interesting kinks in the musical thinking, in the introductions and lines that serve as themes, as well as the background figures that help stoke solos, and in transition sections, that provide the grit and edge to counterweigh the plentiful consonance. The balanced instrumentation fuses the strings nicely with the brass and reeds, and the rhythm team of van der Schyff and bassist André Lachance are pliant and buoyant, providing the splashes of colour that the drummer, particularly, is expert at, serving not as time keeper, primarily, but as tone painter, as heard in the lengthy drum solo introduction to "Chorale".
The band's most "out" moments happen in "Not So Far," where the creative impulse pushes outside the lines — lots of healthy musical fibre in that piece, especially from the wired wizardry of one guitarist in tandem with the wild bowing of Lee against the very straight arpeggiation of the second guitarist, alongside the tender melody intoned by the brass and reed.
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