Fallen Angel

Bob Sneider & Joe Locke

About

Jazz and film noir share a seductive power, evoking shadows, rain-slicked streets, blinking neon signs and dimly lit rooms shrouded by heavy drapes. A strange yet familiar world, like a memory of a life you never lived. Like film noir, jazz moves in a world whose meaning exists in a mood. Fallen Angel creates a darkly romantic one based on classic noir scores, then sets the extraordinary Bob Sneider/Joe Locke Septet loose to improvise around the themes.

Tracks

01 Fallen Angel (5:34)
02 Chinatown (7:11)
03 Les Modernes (5:33)
04 Katya (Love Theme from "The Russia House") (3:46)
05 Promenade Sentimentale (from "Diva") (3:36)
06 Theme from "Mulholland Falls" (4:58)
07 Body Heat (5:50)
08 A Farewell To Maria (8:01)
09 Last Kiss (7:28)
10 Farewell, My Lovely (6:04)
11 Hurricane Country (6:48)

Credits

Bob SNEIDER, guitar
Joe LOCKE, vibraphone
Paul HOFMANN, piano
John SNEIDER, trumpet
Grant STEWART, tenor saxophone
Phil FLANIGAN, bass
Mike MELITO, drums

Notes

I once heard someone say that in film noir, even the furniture is menacing. I’d add to that, “and sad”. Melancholy and menace: those are the feelings that all film noir seems to exude like a vapor. I’ve thought about this a lot, because, as for so many other lovers of film, noir stands at the center of that love. Why is that? What is the seductive power of noir?

It begins, of course, with that pungent and irresistible noir atmosphere, often made of shadows, rain-slicked streets, blinking neon signs and dimly lit rooms, shrouded by heavy drapes. This strange, yet familiar world has the uncanny quality of seeming to belong to some eternal, imagined past, like a memory of a life you never lived. This paradox, I believe, is the source of the sadness and menace that invariably attaches itself to the noir film: at its heart, noir resembles the world as seen through the eyes of a child.

To the very young, the world is utterly mysterious, filled with inexplicable events and ceaseless enigmas, where the possibility of menace and romance lurk in the darkened corners: the lingering smell of a strange perfume; moving shadows on a wall; whispers from behind a door; the distant whistle of a train. This haunting child’s world, whose meaning and content is the atmosphere, is the stuff of film noir. It’s also the very soul of a lot of jazz.

Like film noir, jazz moves in a world whose meaning exists in a mood, where story and content cannot be separated from the palpable atmosphere in which they exist. It’s here where the parallel universes of jazz and noir collide: in the tension and suspense of an unknown and uncertain journey; in the melancholy air of something just out of reach; in the darkly romantic allure of the pursuit of the forbidden. No other music so naturally embodies these qualities and so effortlessly sends them back out into the world, drawing the listener ever more deeply into the noir vortex.

This is where Fallen Angel succeeds so brilliantly. Starting with impeccable choices of classic noir scores, it then turns the extraordinary Bob Sneider/Joe Locke Septet loose to improvise around the themes. This alchemy, the inspiration of producer Frank Aloi, brings together the best of both worlds and results in something that, like all great ideas, feels at once strikingly original and at the same time, utterly inevitable—a classic simply waiting to be discovered.

— Allen Coulter

Director Allen Coulter resides with his wife Kim, in NYC; he is the director of many of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the Sopranos, and numerous other TV series episodes and pilots, as well as the upcoming feature film for Focus Films, "Truth Justice and the American Way", a drama focusing on the mysterious death of actor George Reeves, TV's "Superman".
The darkly beautiful scores of film noir touch a universal - the yearning to be anywhere but in one's own skin, to turn the corner and find the dangerous love of a lifetime, and the big score — but always, the evocative themes have the aftertaste of menace. And the jazz of the Bob Sneider/Joe Locke Septet is the perfect vehicle to convey this mood — improvising inside, and outside the core melody, around it, all the endless variations, new melodies on the main theme, as if it is the hero assessing his chances, and then like John Sneider's brilliant arrangement of Chinatown, the bullet that simply could not be dodged, a due bill that blind fate must collect, in the coda of the arrangement, a dirge-like shuffle to the boneyard, and the epitaph with the finality of an ending rim shot "It's Chinatown Jake!"

I know this music will take you away. Joe Locke's matchless playing and writing bring life to Fallen Angel, a love that involves a line not to be crossed, the bitter-sweet pleasure of it all, and the gut wrenching pain of knowing that before the dawn she'll be gone, with another. Paul Hofmann's "Last Kiss" takes up where Joe Locke leaves off — she's gone again, the fading filmstock of a love for a lifetime that was but a snap shot, and now nothing. The unique voicings of Bob Sneider's guitar and Joe Locke's vibes playing over and in the traditional instrumentation of the be-bop quintet — an artistry that perfectly fits the frame of each noir portrait to be painted.

Bob Sneider, already a master among his peers, but a talent deserving far greater recognition among jazz fans, can walk the walk in both solos and arranging; in his thematic statements — feel the Parisian cabaret of the 20's in his “Le Modernes” arrangement, and solos, in the idiom, always great jazz improvisation, outside the box. Joe Locke's arrangement of “Mulholland Falls,” complex, compelling, a massive conspiracy in the desert at the genesis of the nuclear age after WW II, and the cover up of radiation sickness, and then the smaller, personal, and more devastating conspiracy of the investigating cop, a cheating husband, undone by blind chance in the apparently unrelated homicide case that propels the action. Phil Flanigan's bluesy boozy portrait of Phil Marlowe in “Farewell My Lovely,” perfectly portraying Robert Mitchum, the quintessential private eye, standing behind a dirty window in a flea-bag hotel in pre-war LA, staring out at the neon washed boulevards, lamenting a lifetime of tilting with the windmills of human frailty at the price of growing old with nothing more than a snap brim hat, trench coat, and .38. John Sneider's re-harmonizing of the Diva theme, the night walk in Paris, the "diva", and the bike-messenger, finally in one surreal moment, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, walking as one, lost in an all too brief moment that insulates them from inexplicable murder and mayhem.

The playing is superlative, every arrangement darkly beautiful — the irresistible honey trap of “Body Heat,” the danse macabre of “Farewell to Maria,” the gambler's soliloquy to love lost in “Hurricane Country.” John Sneider's trumpet laments perfectly capturing the gorgeous melodies. Grant Stewart, a post bop tenor, comfortable in the idiom, but with the big tone reminiscent of Lester Young, Ben Webster, and Coleman Hawkins, carrying forward the after-hours themes with short but memorable solos. And Paul Hofmann, Mike Melito and Phil Flanigan propelling every piece and perfectly complementing the front line.

Listen, no happy endings here, but a bittersweet beauty nonetheless — let the Bob Sneider/Joe Locke Film Noir Project take you away — ENJOY! — it was a pleasure being a part of this project.

— Frank Aloi

Reviews

[four stars] "Hey, great idea for a jazz disc! Instead of the strings-challenged small Hollywood orchestra playing the soundtrack music, we have here a swinging septet which improvises inside and outside the movie themes with great creativity, and it's in great sound too."
—Audiophile Audition, 2006

"Guitarist Bob Sneider takes center stage on two fine projects…. Fallen Angel has frequently beautiful renditions of film themes.… Locke’s vibe solos are a set highlight."
—Nashville City Paper, March 2006

"Guitarist extraordinaire Bob Sneider has been a busy man lately, co-headlining two new albums this month. Sneider and vibraphone giant Joe Locke share top billing on their wonderful new album conjuring the moods of film noir. Sneider's slinky guitar lines, wrapping themselves around tunes like "Les Modernes" and "Promenade Sentimentale," are beautifully complemented by Locke's gorgeous cascades…"
— Rochester City, March 2006

"…calling this simply “mood music” would be selling it drastically short. Locke, who has been known for his pyrotechnic mallets, is perhaps better defined by his sensitivity; he’s able to express emotion on the vibraphone as few others have been able to achieve, with a supreme subtlety and grace. The album’s opening track, the title tune penned by Locke, is hauntingly beautiful. Sneider, who has had other releases on the label and who deserves far wider recognition, excels in both improvisation and accompaniment; he and Locke blend beautifully, and like Locke, performs the emotional material with a heartfelt and tender touch. Fallen Angel is a gorgeously melodic and thematically cohesive work."
— JazzWeek, March/April 2006

"Highly recommended. …subtle solos and post-bop harmonies. Evocative throughout, this is music to listen to. The mood is there, but the musicianship is too. Locke delivers the goods again and again on vibes throughout this project along with the solid band…. Throughout Fallen Angel the combination of guitar, piano and vibraphone blend surprisingly well and provide a rich blanket of sound in these great arrangements."
— Jazz Police, April 2006

"This Film Noir Project transposes that spell to music, capturing the essence of the themes that enhance the thrill of watching the films. Music, even in its darkest ambit, can be elevating. Bob Sneider and Joe Locke not only take soundtracks from classic movies, they also add some from films that fell flat on their face. But they bring the music to life, making each tune a unique experience. …Another classic, and one of the best here, is “Farewell, My Lovely.” The arrangement draws the players into a vortex from which each spins and unravels a fascinating tale. The tone is melancholy, shaped by the soft swish of the brushes and a caress against the piano and vibes. The trumpet augments the brooding atmosphere, and in an ever-evolving landscape, the guitar adds counterpoint and the tenor saxophone essays a looming, big-voiced presence. In sum, this group triumphantly immerses itself in the nectar of noir."
— All About Jazz, April 2006

four stars"The originals are just as worthy of being utilized in movies. Hofmann's "Last Kiss" is a provocative duet with guitarist Bob Sneider, perfect for a seductive scene in a mystery flick, while Locke's tense, strutting "Fallen Angel" would seem to be perfect to wrap a movie, or an opening theme, as it is utilized on this top-notch CD."
— All Music Guide, April 2006

"This music is as subtle and nuanced as the shadows in an old black-and-white movie. The material is excellent… There isn't a jarring note anywhere in the mix, which is so well-designed that it's nearly a song cycle. …What elevates this CD from a well-executed novelty to a memorable collection is the band. …big ears, fine technique, and impeccable taste—their contributions are crucial to making this recording work as well as it does. And boy, does it work. I listened to it eight times through today, one spin right after another, and never got bored. I also realized that this recording, while a fitting tribute to film noir, finally departs from it: although there's always danger lurking in those movies, this music has a soothing and sensuous effect. It's wonderful stuff."
— All About Jazz, April 2006

"It's easy listening, but with a bittersweet undercurrent of melancholy beauty that's completely in character with its source.…Guitar and vibes have been a texturally appealing match as far back as vibraphonist Gary Burton’s recording debut on Nashville guitarist Hank Garland’s Jazz Winds from a New Direction (Columbia, 1961). Sneider and Locke fit together hand in glove, inventive individually, transcendent together. Fallen Angel is deceptive in its accessibility—the disc reveals greater depth beneath the surface, matched with a reverence for the music that in no way precludes taking considerable liberties and opening the music to rich interpretation."
— All About Jazz, May 2006

"Very, very nice this one is… admire the considerable inventiveness of the arrangements. …Blending of characters is another dramatic aspect of this never-aggressive set. These compositions from film noir have polychrome arrangements and spark creative initiatives, structured overall as a very mellow, melancholy-tinged performance on unhackneyed themes well-found."
— All About Jazz, June 2006

"Nice concept, great album."
— CD HotList, August 2006