Street Scene is an amazingly complete and in-depth musical autobiography on one CD. Larry Vuckovich emigrated to the U.S. from Yugoslavia with his family in 1951 when he was 14. San Francisco and its up-and-down jazz scene has been his main home base, but he has also lived and worked in New York and Europe and has played with a large cross-section of the world’s best jazz musicians over the past half century.
Vuckovich is a pianist whose evocative touch and poetic but unsentimental sensibility convey the wisdom of deep musical/life experience. The sources of his art are primarily three: the Sonny Clark-Barry Harris-Red Garland wing of mainstream postbop piano, his Balkan heritage and film noir.
They are all meaningfully represented here. Soulful Eastern European minor scales enrich the original “Blue Bohemia Suite.” Vuckovich is a totally persuasive interpreter of the existential loneliness of film noir on the moody title track by Alfred Newman and also on Hubert Giraud’s “Under Paris Skies Impressions.” But the most memorable pieces here come out of the great modern-jazz ballad tradition: “I’ll Wait and Pray,” “It Could Happen to You,” “Oh, You Crazy Moon” and, especially, a solo “Blue in Green.” Their musical polish is unimpeachable, and their romanticism is lush but tough.