Jazz CD Reviews
Larry Vuckovich Trio – High Wall – “Real Life Film Noir” – Tetrachord Music
Published on June 7, 2008
(Vuckovich, piano & arrangements; Larry Grenadier/Paul Keller, bass; Eddie Marshall/Chuck McPherson, drums; Hector Lugo, congas & bongos; Vince Delgado, dumbek & bongos)
Pianist Vuckovich, who grew up as a Serbian child in Tito’s Yugoslavia, moved to the U.S. in the early 50s as a teenager and quickly developed an affinity for film noir, feeling it showed a realistic cross-section of American life. He’s been a top jazz pianist in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years now, and his previous album, Street Scene, was high on XM Satellite Radio. Vuckovich was Marian McPartland’s guest on her Piano Jazz NPR series just last month. (I remember his Halloween concert in SF when he played up his Balkans heritage as a sort of jazz pianist Dracula complete with costume and coffin.) His title the High Wall refers to the themes of deception and the big lie in most film noirs, and also to his former life in Yugoslavia. The note booklet, with details on each track and an essay by jazz writer Herb Wong, is much more explanatory than most brief notes.
In addition to the ten studio tracks, the CD includes two bonus live tracks recorded at the very informal Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco. The audience there aided in the inspired performances. The title tune High Wall is by Bronislaw Kaper and this is its first recording; it opens as though it’s going to be my favorite Ellington tune, Passion Flower, but it isn’t. Dizzy’s bebopish Ow! gets a lively trio treatment, including an inspired congas bit from Hector Lugo. Vuckovich selected Dark Eyes to represent the long-suffering Russian gypsies, but takes it on a trip thru Cuba – a suffering country – via some mambo variations from his guest percussionists on congas, dumbek and bongos. Many jazz artists are including the slow movement of Rodrigo’s familiar Concierto de Aranjuez in their CDs lately, and Vuckovich can be added to the list. His plays up the flamenco influences more heavily than most and ends with some extended drumming on congas and bongos plus a bass solo.
It may have been partially due to my auditioning this CD on my headphones, but the miking – instead of making the piano far too large as with most recordings – seemed to give the listener a subjective acoustic at the keyboard. The highest notes were on the right with the lower notes on the left as though one were seated at the piano – as with the amazing Zenph Studios binaural SACDs.
TrackList: Afro 6/8 Minor Blues, High Wall, Ow!, Put It Where You Want It, View from Telegraph Hill, Dark Eyes, Lolita, What’s This?, Concierto de Aranjuez, A Handful of Stars, Lester’s Minor Blues, Locomotion.
– John Henry