Very, very nice this one is, the absence of an overall noir atmosphere no cause for complaint. The project, under the leadership of Bob Sneider and Joe Locke, looks at the scores of cinematic works of the film noir genre, simply for material worth performing. Maybe somebody thought the genre might have occasioned unusual inspiration and produced themes of substantial jazz potential. Speculate if you like, and admire the considerable inventiveness of the arrangements.
There's something in the initial material. Witness notably Grant Stewart's building of a tenor solo on "Mulholland Falls," which couldn't have been done without a foundation. We have to wait to hear Stewart work out, which he does also on "Body Heat." On "Farewell, My Lovely" (arranged Phil Flanigan), he trades slow fours impressively with the vibraphone of Joe Locke, himself perhaps the sole big name in the band.
I'm not complaining about the balance of soloists, there's just a little suspense built into the programming. There's been a lot of Locke by the time Stewart gets to make his markand Locke is there giving him great support.
The moving, touching, quiet opener is without horns. Then John Sneider's bright lyric trumpet opens a sample from "Chinatown," before gathering pace to become something of a trumpet feature. He develops a melancholy tone, with Hofmann's plangent piano and the colourings which mark Locke as a star accompanist.
Blending of characters is another dramatic aspect of this never-aggressive set. Trumpet and vibes ride the ensemble textures of "Les Modernes," to cite one of numerous scenes for two. In the dreamy intimacy of "Katya," Locke delivers a soliloquy. "Promenade Sentimentale," a great tune arranged by the trumpeter, gives a clearer presentation of the quality contributions of the bassist and drummer.
Bob Sneider is everywherewith several arrangements, and as both ensemble and solo guitarist: from the interplay with vibes on "Fallen Angel" through the flamenco of Thomas Stanko's "A Farewell to Maria" (arranged by Chris Ziemba), to his interaction with Hofmann's piano in the later stages of the closer. He and Locke might have relished this set for several opportunities to conjure a range of colour and effect in ensemble and accompaniment. Paul Hofmann, as well as being the one band member to contribute an original tune, "Last Kiss," gets to show his paces when it becomes a piano feature or dramatic monologue. He also gets to show his paces on the closer, as arranger and soloist.
These compositions from film noir have polychrome arrangements and spark creative initiatives, structured overall as a very mellow, melancholy-tinged performance on unhackneyed themes well-found.
Personnel: Bob Sneider: guitar; Joe Locke: vibraphone; Grant Stewart: tenor saxophone; John Sneider: trumpet; Paul Hofmann: piano; Phil Flanigan: bass; Mike Melito: drums.