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This music is as subtle and nuanced as the shadows in an old black-and-white movie. Like the film noir that inspired it, Fallen Angel is romantic and jaded, beautiful and cynical, and full of longing and disappointment, all at the same time. The material is excellent: vibraphonist Joe Locke's "Fallen Angel" and pianist Paul Hofmann's "Last Kiss" blend seamlessly into the mood, while the arrangements ensure that the dark, velvety spell continues, regardless of tempo. There isn't a jarring note anywhere in the mix, which is so well-designed that it's nearly a song cycle.
Some great film composers are represented, including the underrated Dave Grusin (two tracks), and arguably the greatest of them all, Jerry Goldsmith. His "Chinatown" theme is quintessential film noir, given perfect expression here by John Sneider's luminous trumpet, and his "Katya" has never been more haunting than in Joe Locke's solo take.
What elevates this CD from a well-executed novelty to a memorable collection is the band. Bob Sneider shines whenever he steps forward, and his duo with Hofmann on "Last Kiss" underscores the talents of both. Tenorist Grant Stewart conjures the ghost of Robert Mitchum with his swooping lead on "Farewell, My Lovely." Drummer Mike Melito and bassist Phil Flanigan both have big ears, fine technique, and impeccable tastetheir contributions are crucial to making this recording work as well as it does.
And boy, does it work. I listened to it eight times through today, one spin right after another, and never got bored. I also realized that this recording, while a fitting tribute to film noir, finally departs from it: although there's always danger lurking in those movies, this music has a soothing and sensuous effect. It's wonderful stuff.
Track Listing: Fallen Angel, Chinatown theme, Les Modernes, Katya, Promenade Senitmentale, Theme from "Mulholland Falls," Body Heat, A Fairwell to Maria, Last Kiss, Farewell, My Lovely, Hurricane Country
Personnel: Bob Sneider: guitar; Joe Locke: vibraphone; Paul Hofmann: piano; John Sneider: trumpet;
Grant Stewart: tenor saxophone; Paul Flanigan: bass; Mike Melito: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.