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Larry Vuckovich: High Wall: A Real Life Film Noir

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Sequels are all too common in movies—so much so that rather than have distinctive titles, many simply add a sequential number to the original name. In music, however, a thematic sequel is rare. But the Larry Vuckovich Trio attempts to capitalize on the acclaimed Street Scene (Tetrachord, 2006) with High Wall: Real Life Film Noir.

Vuckovich is a native of Kotor, Yugoslavia, who came to the United States at a time when jazz was one of the most popular forms of music. Classically trained, Vuckovich has associated with such notable artists as Lester Young, Slide Hampton, and Dexter Gordon. On High Wall, the pianist uses his experience of living under Nazi and Communist dictatorships to connect with the music of Bronislaw Kaper, whose "Invitation" and "On Green Dolphin Street" have been featured in films as well as many jazz recordings.

"After 6/8 Minor Blues" is one of four Vuckovich originals in this soundtrack. Accompanied by Larry Grenadier on bass, Eddie Marshall on drums, and Hector Lugo on congas, Vuckovich dazzles in the lead. Grenadier contributes a solo, while Marshall and Lugo give the rhythm some depth.

Lugo switches to bongos for Kaper's "High Wall," the title song to a 1947 film noir that featured actor Robert Taylor. This brooding piece offers both pleasant listening and imagery that enables the audience to visualize physical and figurative walls that restrict movement and shield truths. Even those who have not seen the film can appreciate the symbolic connection between its story and Vuckovich's childhood. This arrangement has a slow, steady pace for the most part but picks up at the end, signaling hope for a happier time.

The ensemble also delivers a lively, playful take on Joe Sample's "Put It Where You Want It." Lugo switches back to congas for this one. This is one of those songs that makes you want to dance. While Vuckovich carries the lead, all players get into the act.

The album also features compositions by Dizzy Gillespie, Barry Harris, Joaquin Rodrigo, Jack Lawrence and Ted Shapiro, and John Coltrane. With one exception, Vuckovich has one of two bass/drums rhythm sections backing him. Paul Keller and Chuck McPherson perform those tasks on four songs. Percussionist Vince Delgado appears on two tracks, including one in which he plays alongside Lugo. So while it is a trio, it is a trio plus one for most of the project. And it's a formula that makes High Wall: A Real Life Film Noir an excellent sequel.

Track Listing: Afro 6/8 Minor Blues; High Wall (premier recording); Ow!; Put It Where You Want It; View from Telegraph Hill; Gypsy Roma Mambo (Dark Eyes); Lolita; What's This?; Concierto de Aranjuez; A Handful of Stars; Lester's Minor Blues (bonus live track); Locomotion (bonus live track).

Personnel: Larry Vuckovich: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8); Eddie Marshall: drums (1, 2, 4, 5, 8); Chuck McPherson: drums (3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12); Paul Keller: bass (3, 6, 9, 11, 12); Hector Lugo: congas (1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12), bongos (2); Vince Delgado: Egyptian tabla (6), bongos (6, 9).

Title: High Wall: A Real Life Film Noir | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Tetrachord Music

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