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Music Review: Larry Vuckovich Trio – High Wall: Real Life Film Noir

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And there she was. The woman in red drew attention to herself like a crimson angel on the wrong side of town on a stormy night where nothing was what it seems and everything was just a little…different.

I approached her from across the crowded smoky room with a drink in my left hand, and a lighter for her cigarette in my right. Ready for anything, I calmly drew near and flicked the flame out just in time. Her cigarette greeted my warm flame like two lovers who hadn’t seen each other for a while. She smiled.

I stole a glance at her figure quickly, hoping to go unnoticed by the dame in red. She had a body that’d make a bishop kick out a stained glass window and lips that seemed to say “Thank you, I’m yours.” Her purse was slung over her left shoulder and she held it tight as though protecting something.

Everybody’s protecting something here.

In the middle of all of this smoke – or is it smoke and mirrors? – comes Larry Vuckovich and his gang of jazz thugs. Without warning, the sounds of High Wall: Real Life Film Noir fill the crowded smoky room and people are paying attention to something else besides their drinks and besides their respective women in red.

See, Larry’s a pro.

He’s what hipsters in jazz call a “rare bird.” Proud of his Slavic heritage and making no jokes about his love for film noir, Vuckovich has been filling smoky rooms with beautiful music as though it flows straight from his veins. 2006 saw Street Scene, a critically-acclaimed marvel that saw him join with stellar jazz musicians under a dim street lamp somewhere to create gorgeous and haunting sounds. With the page turned midway on 2008, High Wall: Real Life Film Noir picks up where Street Scene left off.

Vuckovich has composed High Wall because of his interest in the themes of deception, false accusations, and The Big Lie. Perhaps for me, The Big Lie is somewhere in the red woman’s purse.

Based on a 1947 film noir of the same name, Vuckovich’s High Wall references the barrier to the truth that we all sometimes wind up facing. Larry knows that barrier well, having grown up in a Communist regime in Yugoslavia. Throughout his life, he’s looked for the truth wherever he can find and has produced music based around that search for reality.

The musicians joining Vuckovich must be searching for the same sense of truth because the musical cohesion as evidenced in the arrangements is truly something special. Larry’s accomplices move through a variety of tones, taking on Afro 6/8 rhythm in “Afro 6/8 Minor Blues” and sweeping through film themes in Bronislaw Kaper’s “High Wall” or his own composition “View from Telegraph Hill.”

Vuckovich also works through jazz-funk with precision (“Put It Where You Want It”) and organizes his crew through classic blues patterns on Coltrane’s blazing hot “Locomotion.”

As I find myself drifting off through the Eastern European patterns of “Gypsy Roma Mambo (Dark Eyes),” I start to realize that the woman in red is gone.

Frantically, I turn around and look behind me for just a glimpse of the sweet crimson dress or the beautiful lips. She’s gone. Nothing remains but a memory and the eerie possibilities of The Big Lie in her purse.

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About Jordan Richardson

  • I saw the lady in red last night when I finished getting the fried chicken – just enough to get me through the night. Jordan, I don’t know if it was the same one, but I thot I better let you know: Main Street, Moab, Utah.

    The idea of Yukovich’s repression in communist Yugoslavia was the kernel I needed to listen to “High Wall”. Larry and McPherson’s presence helped.

  • Jordan Richardson

    No worries, Tom. I just figured you were under the influence of the chicken.

    Thanks for keeping me posted as per the location of the lady in red, too. 🙂