Andrew Green: Narrow Margin (2009)
Commonly known as the author of a popular series of instruction books, including Jazz Guitar Comping, Jazz Guitar Structures and Jazz Guitar Technique, Andrew Green's lesson plans are revered for their basic approach towards complex concepts. His debut album, Narrow Margin, is a similarly understated, though deceptively intricate affair.
Temporarily sidelined by a sprained wrist in 2006, Green devoted his time to writing the multi-layered charts that make up the bulk of this session. During his convalescence, he entertained himself with a steady diet of classic film noira subtle influence felt in the album's eight evocative tuneseven naming this record after the 1952 film of the same name.
Eschewing the opportunity to grandstand on his first date as a leader, Green focuses on his writing and arranging skills, spotlighting the stellar talent of his youthful sextet. Russ Johnson (trumpet), Bill McHenry (tenor saxophone) and JC Sanford (trombone) make up the powerhouse front-line, while John Hebert (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums) fill out the elastic rhythm section. Navigating Green's labyrinthine pieces with cinematic flair and ardent emotion, they deliver concise, imaginative solos bolstered by empathetic group interplay.
The album title, pulpy liner notes and a spirited reading of "Narrow Margin/Taxi Driver" (a medley of the pithy title track and Bernard Herrmann's classic movie theme) invoke the moody ambience of film noir. "Midnight Novelette," "Miro" and "Black Roses" embrace the genre's predilection for languid tempos and bluesy introspection, yet Green's expansive writing is unrestrained by stylistic conventions. Cantilevered melodies, contrapuntal harmonies and shifting rhythms form the foundation of his multi-hued compositions.
Green's sleek, serpentine fretwork is generally compliant with Post-War aesthetics, but the distorted guitar tone that amplifies "Short Cut" and "Honeymoon in Ipswich" bears little resemblance to the clean hollow-body sound of yesteryear. Equally adventurous, Green's key front-line partners flirt with the expressive possibilities of free jazz; Johnson veers from dexterous linearity to tonally ambiguous smears, while McHenry's oblique variations careen through angular intervals with histrionic fervor.
A solid debut featuring a crack ensemble, Narrow Margin offers a hearty mix of beguiling lyricism and hard edged improvisation, inspired by the bold chiaroscuro of film noir.
Track Listing: 45 Auto; Midnight Novelette; Miro; Narrow Margin/Taxi Driver; Totally Joe; Short Cut; Black Roses; Honeymoon in Ipswich.
Personnel: Andrew Green: guitar; Bill McHenry: tenor saxophone; Russ Johnson: trumpet; JC Sanford: trombone; John Hebert: bass; Mark Ferber: drums; Benny Cha Cha: Wurlitzer piano (4).
Record Label: Microphonic Records
Style: Modern Jazz