Supreme sonic stylist David Myles and his all-star band of players would like to take you on a journey. With That Tall Distance, Myles shakes off the chains of lyricism in favour of expansive, world-building instrumental arrangements, exploring a universe of shimmering soul, magic jazz, streetwise funk, and earthy blues. Tossed into the fray together, all of the individual timbres, vibes, and moods melt into a cohesive and stunning sonic vision. Over his career, Myles has proven himself a deft hand and keen student across genres, crafting immaculate pop melodies and timeless rock ‘n’ roll hip-swivelers. That Tall Distance throws the books out the window to pursue experimentation, creative instinct, and intense collaboration, bringing listeners the New Brunswick tunesmith’s most inventive record yet.
Like any creative endeavour, making music is a practice of dreaming things into being, and the assembling of That Tall Distance was a process of collective dreaming across space and time. While Myles himself got things started with each song, laying down the main melody and form with guitar and trumpet, the music was then passed on to each co-conspirator in the same sequence. Drummer Joshua Van Tassel would take Myles’ initial offering, seek to understand the essence of it, and then create the grooves that would give it a heartbeat. Like most drummers, he shines all over the record, but halfway through the funk odyssey of “Hawkshaw,” a deluge of percussion sets in to help the tune really blossom. Van Tassel would send things over to bassist Dean Drouillard, whose innovative bottom-end moves set the mood for the raucous, driving “Plank” and drive the whole album along.
Next up were the soloists. On “New 80,” trombone player extraordinaire Andrew Jackson takes listeners far, far out of this world and into one that floats along on the notes of his spacey plunger solo. Keyboardist Leith Fleming-Smith’s interstellar synths add a little funky supernaturality to the first half of the frenetic “Silver World” before he switches gears to set the song on fire with a soul-burning, fingers-flying climax. And strings wiz Asa Brosius deepens everything he touches with sophisticated textures, taking us to the beach on a surfy ride during opener “Bird Song,” and evoking summer sweetness with his dobro on the dusty “Motion.” While each part of That Tall Distance was recorded in isolation, the album flows with the spirit of connection as each element plays naturally off of and in response to the last, a testament to the musical bonds the players share.
Over the year that saw That Tall Distance come together—a year defined by isolation—Myles also continued to seek connection via his “not-so-late night talk show” Myles From Home on YouTube and in podcast form, featuring guests like Jeremy Dutcher, Reeny Smith, and Matt Mays. The show, which originated on CKUA, is just another feather in the multifaceted cap of Myles’ career, which includes numerous awards and accolades, a robust artist profile stateside, a 2018 children’s book called Santa Never Brings Me a Banjo, and the biggest-selling rap single in the history of Canadian music, “Inner Ninja,” a cross-genre musical collaboration with rapper Classified.
Click for high resolution versions. Please credit photographer Mat Dunlap.