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Ben Wolfe: Bagdad Theater

Wolfe wrote these 14 tunes with movie music in mind. With their vaguely mysterious, cool, West Coast, ’50s sound, the genre appears to be film noir. The bassist’s arrangements-most are for a pianoless sextet-suggest Miles’ Birth of the Cool, Gerry Mulligan, Shorty Rogers, Henry Mancini, and Duke Ellington.

On a tune such as “Luke and Leonie,” a lonely ballad, you can hear echoes of Bill Perkins in Ned Goold’s lean tenor saxophone style. Although there’s no alto in the ensemble, you can imagine Art Pepper going deep inside himself on these tunes. As it is, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, trombonist Avi Lebovich, and baritone saxophonist David Schumacher flesh out the horn section handsomely. Greg Hutchinson is the drummer, and Benny Green plays piano on two tracks.

Wolfe walks a big beat and solos in an updated Jimmy Blanton style. His writing, the emphasis on the ensemble, and the period solos are all true to the genre. Mission accomplished.

Originally Published