Peggy Lee Band kicks up a furiously intelligent din on Invitation

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Invitation (Drip Audio)

Those who still buy music, take note: cellist Peggy Lee’s latest release is especially good value, because you get two bands for the price of one.

The unit that gets the most airtime here is like a small brass band, specializing in moody chorales that are both kind of blue and distinctly uplifting.

Anchored by Jeremy Berkman’s trombone, graced by Jon Bentley’s tenor sax and Brad Turner’s trumpet, and with Lee’s cello often acting as a fourth horn, this lush incarnation performs with a voluptuous ease that makes it sound bigger than it actually is. And Lee as a composer has a taste for sweet gravitas, as illustrated by the title track: a musical embrace that enfolds the listener and says “Come on in!”

The other Peggy Lee Band is a thornier proposition. This one puts guitarists Ron Samworth and Tony Wilson at the fore, and as often as not they’re not so much playing actual notes as scrabbling with various implements on the strings, kicking up a furiously intelligent din. An appreciation of what composer Gordon Monahan calls “irritainment” could come in handy at moments like these.

When the two worlds collide, though, as they do a couple of minutes into the appropriately titled “Why Are You Yelling?”, the result is transfixing. Imagine a modern-day Duke Ellington combo spiced up with shards of noise, and you’d be on the right track; it’s music that combines the timeless and the otherworldly in equal measure.

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