Some jazz albums are notable solely for the well-known personnel featured. These recordings excite interest based on name recognition alone. Even if albums like this lack a coherent vision, fans are willing to pick them up just to hear their favorite players at work.
In contrast, composer/guitarist Brent Laidler's No Matter Where Noir
, while featuring top-shelf playing and soloing, focuses on creating a cohesive and entertaining vibe throughout. It's a "sum greater than the parts" album, and it would be a pity if it's overlooked simply because the excellent musicians it features do not have national profiles. No Matter Where Noir
begins with a spoken word interlude (the only one on the album and skippable if you hate that sort of thing), and then unfolds as a soundtrack to an imaginary noir film. It's an album with several changes of pace that still maintains an identifiable spirit throughoutone where optimism, humor, and lightness of touch counterbalance the darkness we associate with the noir genre.
Laidler is a fine guitarist working the territory between Grant Green
and Jim Hall
, but he's a better composer and arranger. Many, many, many jazz musicians pepper or wholly populate their albums with "originals," the vast majority of which are competent and forgettable. Laidler's tunes have sticking power, and strung together on this album they work as individual performances and as part of a larger arc. One can actually imagine other musicians covering them. (Have you noticed how few jazz originals get played by other artists?) The only contrafact is "Heavy Memphis Jones," based on, you guessed it, "Have You Met Miss Jones?"
The soloing throughout is very good, and the trumpet feature for Mark Buselli ending the album achieves the melancholy and gravitas it aims for, which is no small accomplishment. Laidler does not frontline his soloing over his fellow musicians, and even sits out the final number entirely, which is more evidence that he thinks like an arranger rather than a blower. Neither tunes nor solos are trying to expand mainstream jazz conventions or blow the listener's mind with virtuosity. This is an album where the gestalt is king, and one that gets more enjoyable with repetition, as that gestalt sinks into the listener's bones.
Tracks: Intro Dialogue, Downtown by Nine, Jamie's Joynt, Sixth Sense, No Matter Where Noir, Southern Gate, Heavy Memphis Jones, Law of Attraction, Not Just Another Waltz, Meet Me at the Havana Hilton, Keep Me in Mind.
PersonnelBrent Laidler -composer, guitar, Mark Busellitrumpet, Ned Boydsaxophones, Mitch Shinervibraphone, Jamie Newmanpiano, Scott Pazerabass, Richard "Sleepy" Floyddrums (tracks 1, 2, 4, 9, 10 & 11), Kenny Phelps drums (tracks 3, 5, 6, 7, & 8)
Title: No Matter Where Noir | Year Released2017 | LabelSelf Produced