Peggy Lee

Sounds From the Big House

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This (Canadian) West Coast band has surprisingly more in common with the cool sound of (American) West Coast jazz than might be expected. This group has performed together for several years, and the only surprise here is the relatively conservative nature of the results, with a light airy core underlying the freer elements. Peggy Lee has distinguished herself as a fine cellist, with an ear for complexity and an affinity for radical sounds. Here, though, she mostly eschews the extremes (although the uninitiated, in particular, may hear a strikingly radical pulse), focusing not so much on melody as on symmetrical lines, logical progressions, and conventional chords. There is also a much stronger jazz element than before. Lee and Dylan van der Schyff are the most impressive improvisers: Lee has total control of her cello, coupled with an attractively sugary tone, while van der Schyff adds plenty of diversity. The horns are less imposing, with trumpeter Brad Turner a more conventional soloist and Jeremy Berkman an adequate, if not exemplary, fit on trombone. The center holds reasonably well, with Lee at the helm and van der Schyff the anchor. Tony Wilson contributes some hardcore electric guitar on the upbeat "Go Dog Go." The magnificent Fran├žois Houle performs only on the long opening track, and he is in exemplary form, as usual. Lee's compositional skills continue to progress, but it is her singular performance as a cellist that makes the deepest impression.

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