Drawing its inspiration from a 1952 film noir, Andrew Green’s Narrow Margin is a deep, creative work infused with delicious dread and danger.
Green, the author of three popular books on jazz guitar, leads a band of characters worthy of some of the most sensual, dark noir. Along with Green’s guitar, Narrow Margin features Bill McHenry on tenor sax, JC Sanford on trombone, Russ Johnson on trumpet, John Hebert on bass, and Mark Ferber on drums. Benny Cha Cha guests on Wurlitzer piano for one piece.
Green’s record jumps like a film score, complete with car chases and love scenes to smolder up the stereo speakers. His compositions are brave and exciting, offering a sense of style and variety that the composer and guitarist credits to his early love for the Beatles. “Given the anything-and-three kitchen-sinks approach to some of the Beatles’ tunes, it imprinted a love of diversity on my young mind that not even twenty years of playing bebop could stifle,” he says.
Interestingly, the origins for Narrow Margin came when Green had sprained his left wrist and couldn’t play guitar for ten weeks. He spent his “forced hiatus” watching ’40s and ’50s film noir and eventually the mood and tone of the movies sunk in.
The result of the noir infusion is a set of eight pieces arranged with a sense of consistency and harmony in mind. Like fresh rain on dark pavement, Green’s compositions linger with thought and fragrance.
Starting with “.45 Auto,” Green sets the stage for some remarkably cool solos. Johnson and McHenry go to work first, drilling out heated and passionate segments. Hebert’s fills hammer like bullets cutting through the night’s thick air.
Green shares the credit with the legendary Bernard Herrmann on “Narrow Margin/Taxi Driver,” a piece that utilizes the theme from the 1976 Scorsese classic as an underpinning to his own theme of sorts. The cautious introduction sounds like a prison break set to chilling percussion and distant bleats of sax.
Green, who has worked with the likes of Donald Byrd and John McNeil, even manages to slide in a tribute to Joe Henderson (“Totally Joe”) that makes the most out of the members’ various solos.
Narrow Margin is a cool, slick record. Green’s compositions are elegantly balanced to give equal time and cadence to improv and sweetly arranged passages.