Film In Music
Tell Tale

(Drip Audio)

A great album which exhibits many qualities: a melodic dimension which sounds fresh and surprisingly accessible, though it incorporates a degree of "hidden complexity" that at times becomes apparent; a fine timbral palette which shows great variety thanks to a clear recorded sound that's never fatiguing and which invites listeners to turn the volume knob to the right; an "ensemble" dimension that gives ample space to soloists while at the same time integrating them into the whole fabric of sound.

I was quite surprised to see that the leader of the line-up called Film In Music is none other than Peggy Lee, the Canadian composer and cello player who for a long time now has been one of my favourite musicians.

I had liked the most recent album released by the Peggy Lee Band, Invitation (2012), the same being true of the song cycle Beast To Bone (2014) released under the name The Sands, an album for which Peggy Lee composed the music.

Tell Tale gives us a welcome update. We find musicians who are frequent contributors on Peggy Lee's albums: Ron Samworth on guitar, André Lachance on electric bass, Dylan Van Der Schyff on drums; also Jesse Zubot on violin; there are also names that are new to me: Kevin Elaschuk on trumpet, Chris Gestrin on (mostly, electric) piano (the album also features an uncredited synthesizer), Torsten Muller on double bass.

Compared to the octet which appears on Invitation, the new line-up has fewer winds, more strings. We see an electric and a double bass appearing side-by-side. Also, having three string instruments that can be played arco - double bass, cello, violin - makes it possible to change the colour of a melody by changing the "weight" of each in the unison mode. Let's not forget that Dylan Van Der Schyff is a drummer who has always highlighted the "high-sounding" portion of the drums, i.e., cymbals, to great effect.

With Ron Samworth's guitar providing both melody and colour, with a use of the wha-wha pedal that's quite unusual today, Kevin Elaschuk's trumpet - besides playing a few fine solos - makes it possible for Peggy Lee the composer to make great use of her "device" of combining trumpet and cello, a combination that's one of the sonic signatures of her compositions.

Chris Gestrin's electric piano - which to me sounds like a vintage Fender Rhodes, which often sounds like it's being filtered through a ring modulator - acts as a kind of "pedal"-"propulsive" device, also performing fine solos that could be labeled as "fusion", in the "electric" Hugh Hopper meaning of the tag.

Produced by Dylan Van Der Schyff and Peggy Lee, the album was recorded by Eric Mosher - a familiar name for Peggy Lee's albums, whose work equals good sound quality - at Warehouse Studio, Vancouver. Mixing and editing work by Dylan Van Der Schyff at the usual Zio Uovo. This time, we also have a "mixing manipulation", which with "rewiring" work (something which is not clear to me), and (fine) mastering was done by Jesse Zubot at his usual Britannia Beach Bunker.

At about 56', the album features seven pieces composed by Peggy Lee and five pieces - in solo, duo, and trio - that I suppose were improvised and which I assume are here in order to make for a more rounded picture. It was especially on the latter tunes that I appear to detect those "sonic manipulations".

By now, readers have more than enough information. Let's have a quick look at those pieces.

A Turn Of Events is the fine opening number: the group "tunes up", then an arpeggio on the Fender Rhodes in the right channel, doubled by a guitar arpeggio in the left, gives way to a melody which reminded me of Wayne Horvitz in his President period. Fine mix of trumpet, cello, and violin. There's a "lyrical-sounding" trumpet solo that reminded me of Mark Charig-Kenny Wheeler, and a fine, ever-changing, multitimbral backdrop.

Loyalties starts with a more "noisy" air, bass, cymbal to the fore, then there's a melody for trumpet, cello, and violin sounding sad and mournful. Fine snare drum, a trumpet that reminded me a bit of Lester Bowie, drums, it leads to

Gruesome Goo, a double bass solo that - thanks also to those arco harmonics - appears to show the ex post sound work, especially at the end of the piece.

Egg Hatched is an episode for trio - Gestrin, Lachance, Samworth - with the guitar fading in, a bell-like synth sound, echoes, the sound of a filter opening, a ring modulator, all combining to create a kind of abstract, suggestive, work.

Wild Bill features a piano opening with a long solo episode with halo-effects playing an arpeggiated circular figure, then it cuts to the electric piano, then it's time for a leading melody played unison by trumpet and cello. Fine drums, played brushes on snare drum and cymbals, also bass, guitar, and violin are featured.

Epilogue To Part 1 starts with snare drum, cymbal, bass, and a rhythmic figure by the electric piano. Melody by trumpet and cello in unison mode, then there's a guitar solo with wha-wha that's vivacious. Fine cymbal work. Then it's back to the bitter-sweet sounding theme.

An Eyeball For Dan is a long and varied episode for drums and percussion where I seemed to detect some ex-post work. It starts with (what to me sound like) cymbals played arco, maybe through effects-slowed down. Nice coupling of cymbals with phasing, "deep" sounding bass drum, and percussion.

Ensemble starts with a melody in a "dancing" tempo, featuring violin, cello, guitar, very fine cymbals, then the trumpet, in a way I was reminded of Carla Bley, but with different instrumental colours, the electric bass solo reminding me of Steve Swallow, beautifully dressed by trumpet and strings.

Dangling W is an ever-changing violin solo, sounding quite "dry".

A Walk Through Town starts with electric bass, cymbal, then a theme for strings and trumpet, at first sounding tense, then it "relaxes" with great lyricism. The rhythm section goes "double time", strings coming to the fore. An "Hopper"-like moment, the electric bass backing the trumpet, then comes the electric piano. In closing, a fine, lyrical, theme.

Nagging Doubts is a duo of "opposites": a "pointillistic-sounding" electric piano on the left, the cello played arco with long notes on the right.

Finale: God's Laughter And A Parade starts with a piano arpeggio, ride cymbal, bass. There's a fine theme for trumpet and strings. Then, an electric piano solo through a ring modulator in the right channel and the electric guitar with wha-wha on the left, with excellent cymbal work. The rhythm section accelerates. The song - and the album - ends with a light-sounding theme for strings, like on the end credits to a movie.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2017 | Feb. 7, 2017