By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin September 13, 2011 at 4:30AM
I don’t often review music when it doesn’t directly relate to movies, but a few years ago I did write about jazz pianist Larry Vuckovich’s film noir-inspired CDs, which I highly recommend. Larry recently sent me his latest CD, Somethin’ Special (Tetrachord Music) and while it isn’t based on a movie theme, it contains such tasty mainstream jazz I want to spread the word about it. Larry’s East Coast-based rhythm section is joined by―
―tenor man Noel Jewkes and that superb saxophonist Scott Hamilton. If you want to learn, or hear, more, go to www.larryvuckovich.com. And here’s my original writeup of the film noir albums:
Along with film my other great passion in life is jazz. Not long ago I heard a beautiful recording of Bronislaw Kaper’s theme from High Wall on KJAZZ, our local public radio jazz station. Jazz musicians have made standards of Kaper’s title songs from Green Dolphin Street and Invitation, but this was the first time I’d ever heard the music from the 1947 MGM picture starring Robert Taylor. When I learned that the pianist was Larry Vuckovich, I investigated further and found that this talented musician has devoted two recent CD’s to music inspired by films—and film noir in particular. He discusses the Robert Taylor movie and his response to it in the liner notes for High Wall: Real Life Film Noir:
“Besides the loveliness of the score, I’m drawn to the film’s themes of deception, false accusations, the big lie fabricated to slander others so that violence and injustice can be committed against them. The high wall, both literally and symbolically, shuts out efforts to find the truth. I learned to face reality, to look at life as it is, as a Serbian-Montenegran child growing up under Tito’s Communist regime in Yugoslavia, and before that, World War II under German, Croatian and Muslim Nazis. Serbs were among America’s few allies in the Balkans during this global war, saving more than 500 downed American flyers; my father hid one of them in our attic and helped him to escape.
“My history is one reason why I developed an affinity for film noir since my move as a young teenager to the U.S. in the early 1950s. This genre shows an honest, realistic cross-section of American life. It depicts a full spectrum of events and feelings, from the dark side, to the positive caring one. Characters are portrayed realistically, as in real life―some honest, decent―others users, ruthless and manipulative. Then sometimes, in a surprising twist, they turn out to be the same person.”
I first heard Larry play many years ago when he was the pianist in residence at the Parker Meridien Hotel in Manhattan. Since then he’s traveled far and wide, working solo, in the trio format and accompanying artists as diverse as Dexter Gordon and Jon Hendricks. He’s a passionate exponent of what most people call straight-ahead jazz, which could never be mistaken for lounge music or that amorphous category known as “easy listening”...yet there is a consistently tasteful quality to his music that makes it very appealing to the ear.
On his 2006 CD Street Scene, Larry performs a jazz version of Alfred Newman’s theme from Street Scene, one of my favorite pieces of movie music which the pianist first encountered in its repeated use in Fox film noirs of the 1940s. His other selections range from “As Time Goes By” (performed as a mambo!) to “Come Rain or Come Shine.” The High Wall CD also includes many tasteful original compositions. I don’t think you’d have to be a hardcore jazz buff to enjoy the music of Larry Vuckovich. If you’d like to hear some samples and read more about this talented musician click HERE.