September 22, 2021
Measured but not muted chamber jazz, Waxwing’s program is melodic and graceful, yet the 18 lower-case tracks never abandon rhythmic thrust or technical sophistication. Three of Vancouver’s most inventive players, cellist Peggy Lee, saxophonist Jon Bentley and guitarist Tony Wilson are joined by the flute and echoes of Miranda Clingwall on three tracks. Pre-recording, sampling and looping of the timbres produced by Bentley’s and Wilson’s other string and percussion instruments also give Flicker Down a richer, more multi-layered sound than most chamber-styled discs.
However this doesn’t let sound manipulation get in the way of authentic sensitivity as non-acoustic textures are aurally transparent. If hybrid manipulations are used on “Highway of Tears”, memorializing the murder of indigenous women, they’re secondary to the melancholy projected by emotional reed slurs and sweeping cello harmonies. Other tunes vibrate joyously such as the swirling “Just Saying” where Lee approximates rural fiddling and Wilson country twanging; or the chiming and percussive stops and rubs from the strings that animate “Your Bet”. Harmonized to move the exposition from a canter to a trot “Crossing Paths” contrasts gentle guitar finger picking and staccato sax blowing as cello stops provide an underlying ostinato.
These currents are crossbred on “Joe’s Theme”. Ascending and descending from horizontal movement, Lee’s concentrated glissandi doorstop the elaborations from splintered reed peeps and ringing guitar strums so that the theme ends up simultaneously decorated and propelled. Exploratory without excess and with lyricism paced with logic, the CD is a perfect example of restrained creativity.
Track Listing: 1. Flicker Down 2. On This Day 3. Fweeo Walks By 4. Your Bet 5. Time Waited 6. A Day’s Life 7. Montbretia Gates* 8. Highway of Tears 9. Birds in Cages 10. Crossing Paths 11. Joe’s Theme 12. Breathe 13. Invisible Something* 14. Just Saying 15. Cloaks of Coax 16. Peace for Animeek* 17. Chasing the End 18. Parasitic
Personnel: Jon Bentley (tenor and soprano saxophones, tank drum, synthesizers, percussion, bells, samples and programming); Miranda Clingwall (flute and Space Echo*); Peggy Lee (cello) and Tony Wilson (guitar, harmonica, kalimba, percussion, ektara)