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Peggy Lee Band: Worlds Apart

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By Ken Waxman

The Canadian West Coast has an abundance of known improvisers—clarinetist François Houle, drummer Dylan van der Schyff, and cellist Peggy Lee being examples—but like everywhere else, the hometown scene can be a little comfortable and self-contained. The tunes on Worlds Apart, mostly written by Lee and recorded with local musicians in her hometown, lacks a certain spark, and it suffers from an overabundance of tracks (nine). A certain indefinable heavy-handed mournfulness in Lee's cello playing also detracts from the proceeding.

Additionally, the tracks often seem to range between overly pliable lullabies and excessively prissy rustic lines. The melancholy underlying the compositions is so strong that it seems to be heading for straight out depression. Part of this may attributed to a lack of reed coloration. Brad Turner on trumpet, cornet, and flugelhorn and Jeremy Berkman on trombone are the only horns, and frequently muted, they add to this bleak outlook. So do the other two—or in some cases three—string players. Electric and acoustic bassist André Lechance and guitarist Tony Wilson, who has recorded with Houle, are on every track. Ron Samworth of Vancouver's NOW Orchestra (who was in the Talking Pictures band with the cellist and drummer van der Schyff) is added on four. Capable of mood swings elsewhere, the two plectrumists also appear a bit too fond of the sort of spacey, restrained licks that have characterized Bill Frisell since his ECM tenure.

The weakest of the pieces is "Spells," which suggests that Lee is revisiting her folk-rock childhood. With a strummed double guitar lead reminiscent of Wishbone Ash—or maybe Peter, Paul & Mary—Blood, Sweat & Tears-era horn charts and heavy, accented rock drumming, the end product is pretty poppy. "Beekeeper's Club" isn't that much better. Here Wilson and Samworth are in country and western mode, with double-thumbed guitar licks meeting Clark's prissy muted trumpet cadenzas.

Better, but still no world-beaters, are tunes like "A Door" and "Retacing 2." The first, weighing in at almost nine and a half minutes, gives everyone some room. There are understated flams and bounces from van der Schyff, scratchy guitar runs, shaded trumpet patterns, and lower case trombone accompaniment—all very polite, even when Lechance produces a thump from his bass. It could be more leichen musik or funeral sounds, though. Moody as well, "Retacing 2" does have a sul ponticello cello lead that introduces a similar theme from the trumpet and drums. But even this shimmering performance sounds a little tired, with no one really standing out.

Track Listing: Worlds Apart; Soft Scrape; Retracing 2; Spells; First Spin; Old One Knows; Beekeeper Club; A Door; Lookout.

Personnel: Brad Turner: trumpet, cornet; Jeremy Berkman: trombone; Peggy Lee: cello; Tony Wilson, Ron Samworth: guitars, Andr

Title: Worlds Apart | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Spool

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