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).

Title: Narrow Margin | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Microphonic Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Vyamanikal" CD/LP/Track Review Vyamanikal
by Duncan Heining
Published: July 17, 2016
Read "Life Compass On!" CD/LP/Track Review Life Compass On!
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 5, 2017
Read "Woodclock" CD/LP/Track Review Woodclock
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: July 2, 2016
Read "Tipico" CD/LP/Track Review Tipico
by James Nadal
Published: January 12, 2017
Read "Invention of Knowledge" CD/LP/Track Review Invention of Knowledge
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 9, 2016
Read "Summer Skyshift" CD/LP/Track Review Summer Skyshift
by John Sharpe
Published: August 18, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.