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Waxwing: A Bowl Of Sixty Taxidermists

Dan Bilawsky By

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The second album from this Vancouver-based trio—originally going by Wilson/Lee/Bentley, now known as Waxwing—is a study in contrasts. Idiosyncratic miniatures sit shoulder to shoulder with statements of serenity, eerie constructs and macabre scenarios are quickly replaced with comforting sounds, and uncertainty peaks around every corner. But there's a distinctive group sound and aesthetic here that transcends individual song structures or directions. Tony Wilson's mastery of subtle guitar effects, Peggy Lee's serious-minded turned stoking cello work, and saxophonist Jon Bentley's melodic frankness are all at the heart of Waxwing.

A Bowl Of Sixty Taxidermists takes it's name from a deathbed quote from saxophonist/pianist Ross Taggart—a beloved figure in the Vancouver jazz scene, and a mentor to Bentley, who passed away at the age of forty-five in 2013. That particular phrase was uttered as part of a response when Taggart was asked if he needed anything, and it may have simply been a rambling statement given by a very ill man, but its enigmatic nature fits this group and this album like a glove. In fourteen tracks, lasting fifty-five short minutes, Waxwing explores the outer reaches of the sonic universe and the inner workings of human emotion, reflecting the perplexing nature of that phrase.

There are proper songs, sound sculptures, passing thoughts, and oddities all mixed together here. Sonic swarms of locusts appear ("Reigning Cats And Dogs"), fun house mirrors reflect distorted truths ("A Bowl Of Sixty Taxidermists"), quietude prevails ("For Ross"), and hip riffing descends into madness ("Thicket"). There's absolutely no way to know what's coming next, as free jazz raves and folk-ish thoughts make nice together, dreams and nightmares call a truce, and all three musicians perform as one without losing a bit of their identities. And through these intriguing and sonically diverse mood paintings, Waxwing proves that substance is of greater importance than stylistic single-mindedness.

Track Listing: A Bowl Of Sixty Taxidermists; For Ross; Ponderosa; For Claude; Snow Blind; Interlude #1; Dune; Reigning Cats And Dogs; Clementine; Thicket; A Line Through; Cinder; The Owl Of Crowston; Gone.

Personnel: Tony Wilson: electric guitar; Peggy Lee: cello; Jon Bentley: reeds.

Title: A Bowl Of Sixty Taxidermists | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

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