Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Peggy Lee Band – New Code

New Code (2008) is the fourth outing by an octet (previously a sextet, subsequently expanded) led by cellist and composer Lee, a woman active in various artistic settings in the Vancouver area who has collaborated – among others – with Wayne Horvitz, Dave Douglas, Nels Cline and Bill Frisell. The latter’s influence is evident in the guitar arrangements (the axemen being Ron Samworth and Tony Wilson), soothingly wavering arpeggios informing compositional milieus that don’t allow the musicians to stray too much from the main harmonic establishment, more than ever in the pair of covers that open and close the CD (by Bob Dylan and Kurt Weill respectively). Three horn-blowing men – trumpeter Brad Turner, saxophonist Jon Bentley and trombonist Jeremy Berkman – execute clean-and-tidy designs amidst which the leader’s cello often seems to hide instead of fighting or moving at the forefront, which is a bit of a trademark in a way. Bassist André Lachance and drummer Dylan Van Der Schyff complete the line-up. I’ll be brutally honest: this is not an extraordinary album, overly meek as it is even in its improvisational traits. It is played well of course - but with a perennial smile on the face, not biting for a second. “Overeducated” is perhaps the best adjective to use in this case. Every now and then we need a little sting in between the cuteness, and it never happens. And you know what, a piano replacing the guitars in the orchestration would have worked better. All things considered, this music can work as a pleasant complement to quietness; sometimes this is just what’s required from a record. Sometimes. (Drip Audio)