Andy Summers: Peggy's Blue Skylight
As is his habit, Summers tackles each selection with a different approach, giving this project a kind of Downtown jazz-rock-funk vibe. For example, Mingus’ driving train rhythm on Boogie Stop Shuffle is sacked in favor of a back-alley slink. Tonight At Noon starts off like an acoustic Delta blues but soon shifts into high electric gear. Other tracks echo Pat Metheny, John Scofield and supermarket soundtracks. It takes a strong talent and fine-tuned ears like Summers’ to weave such a many-textured tapestry out of one composer’s works while keeping the project entertaining and commercially viable.
The supporting musicians are notably well-chosen. Bassist Dave Carpenter is particularly versatile, pumping out steady rock rhythms one moment and mirroring Mingus’ own thundering sound the next. Cellist Hank Roberts distinguishes himself mightily on several tracks, leading one to anticipate further collaborations. Rapper Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest evocatively recites a Mingus poem over Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, and Blondie frontwoman Deborah Harry seductively groans Weird Nightmare. The Jazz Passengers and Kronos Quartet each contribute excellent performances in their turn. And over it all hover the chameleonic tones of Andy Summers, his impeccable musicianship guiding guitar and ensemble onto paths familiar and uncharted.
This is a much more enjoyable, even-tempered tribute than Hal Willner’s Weird Nightmare album, with its bizarre Harry Partch instrumentation and skewed arrangements. That disc seemed more reflective of Mingus’ troubled mental and emotional state than the true spirit of his compositions. Peggy’s Blue Skylight simply celebrates one of America’s great musical talents without an obligation to analyze his quixotic personality. Highly recommended.
Track Listing: Boogie Stop Shuffle; Tonight At Noon; Reincarnation of a Lovebird; Opus Three; Cumbia Jazz Fusion; Remember Rockefeller at Attica; Peggy
Personnel: Andy Summers, guitars, electric sitar (#11); Dave Carpenter, bass; Joel Taylor, drums; Randy Brecker, trumpet (#1); Nick Ariondo, accordion (#2, 7); Hank Roberts, cello (#2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 11); John Novello, Hammond B-3 organ (#3, 4, 8, 9); Geetha Bennett, vocal, veena and tamboura (#3); Rob Thomas, violin (#4, 6, 10); Michito Sanchez (#5, 6, 7), Brian Kilgore (#6), percussion; Alison Wedding (#6), Deborah Harry (#8), Q-Tip (#9), vocals; Curtis Fowlkes, trombone (#6, 10); Roy Nathanson, alto sax (#10); Bill Ware, vibes (#10); Kronos Quartet (#11)
Record Label: RCA Victor
Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock