Duo en Noir
Between The Lines
Pianist Ran Blake has long been a film noir devotee, so a subdued, shadow-saturated program garnished with compositions by the likes of Bernard Herrmann is a familiar proposition. It is his teaming with Enrico Rava on Duo en Noir that is intriguing, as the trumpeter's music often exudes the larger-than-life passions as Italian cinema. But the charm and the foreboding of the night prevail on this duo concert recording, revealing Rava and Blake to be flexible, compatible partners.
An almost elegiac take on the Nat Cole anthem "Nature Boy" sets the tone for the program, with Blake's sparse comping fluttering about Rava's pensive melody reading like moths around a flickering candle. Yet this is but the calm before a muffled storm, as the duo builds menacing tension with Herrmann's "Vertigo/Laura" and the theme from The Spiral Staircase. In all good suspense films there is temporary midscript relief from the gnawing suspicions and the creaking in the attic. In this program, that comes in the form of Rava's smoldering solo original "Corti Angoli," which triggers a sequence of semisweet performances, particularly Blake's solo version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."
Surprisingly, this repose lingers through the last three duets-a wistful "I Should Care," a spry "Tea for Two" and a slightly flushed "There's a Small Hotel" that ends the date with the suggestion that romance is right around the corner.
Or is it something else? After all, this is just the first reel of the movie.