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Carlos Franzetti: Film Noir

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If some hardboiled film-noir buffs take a pass on this richly atmospheric collection of movie themes after scanning the titles-no “Laura” here, nor anything from, say, The Postman Always Rings Twice or The Big Sleep-it’s their loss. With the help of a jazz ensemble featuring alto saxophonist Andy Fusco and the City of Prague Philharmonic, arranger-conductor-pianist Carlos Franzetti has fashioned an alluring homage to cinema’s shadowy corners.

The tune choices say a lot about Franzetti’s personal taste and his desire to avoid the obvious, something that’s clear from the outset when a sinuous, soulful arrangement of “Body Heat” is followed by a bright, bop-tinted take on “Girl Talk.” With his expressive tone and harmonic agility, Fusco has no difficulty sustaining the contrasting moods, and the orchestra soon casts its share of spells, using strings and woodwinds to sensuous effect on Lalo Schifrin’s “The Voyage of the Damned” and Bernard Herrmann’s “Taxi Driver.” David Raskin, author of the unforgettable “Laura,” is represented by “The Bad and the Beautiful,” and though the performance falls well short of the three-minute mark, it makes for a lushly evocative interlude. Then again, the same could be said for “Tango Fatal,” Franzetti’s sole contribution to the album’s thematic charms.

Among the other composers who make the cut and add to the album’s blue tints are Herbie Hancock (“Still Time,” drawn from ‘Round Midnight), Johnny Mandel (“I Want To Live”) and, at closing time, Burt Bacharach (via a nostalgic, strings-swept arrangement of “Alfie”).