200

Andrew Green: Narrow Margin

J Hunter By

Sign in to view read count
Andrew Green: Narrow Margin Film noir used to be what the Internet is nowadays: something to blame for why the world is going south in a sidecar. Noir films were black and white, but the story lines weren't. The good guys weren't all good, the bad guys weren't always that bad, and the girls with hearts of gold only had them because that's where they kept their cash. And the music was dark... dark like the shadows where most of the action happened. Andrew Green understands this, which is why Narrow Margin works like a Swiss pocket watch.



The New York-based guitarist started writing this music after he watched The Narrow Margin, a 1952 potboiler that Gene Hackman remade in the '90s. Eventually, Green's canvas grew to include elements of the entire genre. Noir always dovetailed well with jazz: Elmer Bernstein's soundtrack to the über-noir blockbuster Sweet Smell of Success (1957) was big band jazz gone insane, and Duke Ellington did the amazing score for 1959's Anatomy of a Murder, which had dialogue straight out of noir. Green's compositions mostly stay sextet-size, but they've got all the stopping power of a blazing Tommy Gun.



Green's frontline throws heat from the jump on "45 Auto," playing an off-kilter riff that says something's coming, and it's not pretty. Green fills over and around them, and then gets in line as Russ Johnson's trumpet leaps out in front. Johnson's solo is downright mean, just like some noir "heroes." Conversely, Bill McHenry's tenor sounds like someone hoarse from screaming, and his solo is practically strangled as he plays higher and harder. This music is straight from the shoulder, fried in the gristle of James Whitmore's diner in The Asphalt Jungle (1950).



Noir films were great when the writing was great, and Green's writing is right on point. "Midnight Novelette" is a travelogue through a city with no people—just huge cars, neon signs, and those ever-present shadows. "Totally Joe" is a theme for the sharp operator who's always three moves ahead of everyone in the game; people may hate him, but they can't help but admire him. Then Green builds a bridge between one Hollywood and another with "Narrow Margin/Taxi Driver." Bernard Herrmann's razor-edged score to Martin Scorsese's breakout film was classic noir music, perfect for the movie that sent New Yorkers running for the subway. The movie themes' erratic attack folds seamlessly into the tension and foreboding of Green's original piece.



Green doesn't keep it all retro. Tracks like "Black Roses" and "Miro" have the feel of noir classics like Double Indemnity (1944) and 1948's The Naked City—JC Sanford's mournful trombone on "Miro" encapsulates the feelings of hopelessness most noir "heroes" experience—but Green's buzzsaw guitar on "Short Cut" and "Honeymoon in Ipswich" evoke modern noir films like Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Layer Cake (2004).



The more things change, the more they stay the same. Narrow Margin is hard-edged music about hard-edged cinema and, like the best noir characters, the music packs a wallop.

Track Listing: 45 Auto; Midnight Novelette; Miro; Narrow Margin/Taxi Driver; Totally Joe; Short Cut; Black Roses; Honeymoon in Ipswich.

Personnel: Andrew Green: guitar; Bill McHenry: tenor sax; Russ Johnson: trumpet; JC Sanford: trombone; John Hebert: bass; Mark Ferber: drums; Benny Cha Cha: Wurlitzer piano (4).

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Pathways CD/LP/Track Review Pathways
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Landing CD/LP/Track Review Landing
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Words And Music CD/LP/Track Review Words And Music
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Faces CD/LP/Track Review Faces
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves CD/LP/Track Review Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves
by Duncan Heining
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "Pascal Battus / Dafne Vicente-Sandoval</em>" CD/LP/Track Review Pascal Battus / Dafne Vicente-Sandoval</em>
by John Eyles
Published: June 17, 2016
Read "First Set" CD/LP/Track Review First Set
by Jerome Wilson
Published: February 6, 2017
Read "Tales & Tones" CD/LP/Track Review Tales & Tones
by Geannine Reid
Published: January 21, 2017
Read "Heritage" CD/LP/Track Review Heritage
by James Nadal
Published: October 3, 2016
Read "Planet" CD/LP/Track Review Planet
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 28, 2016
Read "Blue Skylight" CD/LP/Track Review Blue Skylight
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 5, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!