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JAZZ NOIR Liner Notes By EDDIE MULLER 

Ask people to name a musical instrument synonymous with film noir, and it’s a safe bet no one will say the flugelhorn, the ax of choice for my man, Dmitri Matheny. It’d be the saxophone, by a landslide. Which is strange, because sax barely figures in scores from the classic era of film noir, roughly 1944-54. Orchestral strings set the tone, in the work of such geniuses as Miklós Rózsa (Double Indemnity), Franz Waxman (Night and the City), and Roy Webb (Out of the Past). 

People hearing that saxophone aren’t wrong, however. It’s an understandable misconception, based on how the elastic notion of noir was integrated and adapted into the cultural bloodstream by crime writers, film and television producers, and jazz musicians. It’s a dark and twisted road that’s led us from The Killers (Rózsa, 1946) to Odds Against Tomorrow (John Lewis, 1959) to Taxi Driver (Bernard Herrmann, 1976) to Mulholland Drive (Angelo Badalamenti, 2001). In the roadhouses along the way, combos and arrangements have constantly changed—but the song has remained the same: you suffer for your desire … so you may as well suffer with style. 

Dmitri Matheny and I charted this route years ago when we collaborated on a “Jazz-Noir” film series for SFJAZZ, which drew on our respective knowledge of music and film. I came away from the experience with a keener insight and deeper appreciation of the scoring of many favorite films. If our conspiracy struck the spark for this album, I’m proud of the small role I played and thrilled that you get to reap the benefit. I’m just tickled to be name-checked (between Herb Caen and Tony Bennett!) in the album’s centerpiece, “Crime Scenes,” a 12-minute suite that delves into the sexy and sinister side of San Francisco, featuring some amusingly “hard-boiled” spoken-word poetry, including a dame who will “draw a chalk outline around your heart.” It pays loving, backhanded tribute to my hometown, and local sleuths ranging from Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon) to Mike Stone (The Streets of San Francisco). 

That’s what I love about Dmitri’s take on noir—it travels the whole route, reaching back to caress the sinuous notes of the venerable “Caravan,” a Juan Tizol composition from 1936 made famous by the Duke Ellington Orchestra, then tracing that sultry promise forward to find Audrey Horne slinking around in shrouded rooms to Badalamenti’s score for Twin Peaks. In these grooves (can’t help it, grew up in a vinyl world), Matheny leads his crack crew through a sonic history of noir, with nods to composers ranging from Harold Arlen to Lalo Schifrin. 

The opening “Noir Medley” weaves together unforgettable swatches of scores by Henry Mancini (Touch of Evil), Jerry Goldsmith (Chinatown), David Raksin (Laura), Bernard Herrmann (Vertigo, Taxi Driver) and Harold Arlen (Blues in the Night), and instantly proves that, yes, the flugelhorn can evoke— perfectly—the nocturnal longing of the best noir. 

Matheny crafts an eight-minute Gold Medal paperback out of poet Dana Gioia’s “Film Noir,” a pungent roux of small-town trouble straight out of Black Wings Has My Angel, featuring a discontented dame who, “if she shot you dead would finish your drink.” 

The extra kick in this road trip is the juxtaposition of venerable jazz standards (“Stormy Weather,” “Estate”) with unexpected, underappreciated gems such as John Williams’ gorgeous “The Long Goodbye,” composed for Robert Altman’s 1973 revisionist take on Philip Marlowe, and Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady,” from the same year. (If you don’t think “Golden Lady” is noir, revisit the lyrics: the poor sap is dying to sell his soul for his dream girl.) 

Other surprises: a haunting version of Polish composer Bronislaw Kaper’s High Wall, the title theme for the 1947 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer noir of the same name, and the band’s jaunty exit with “What Now My Love?” French composer Gilbert Bécaud’s renowned 1961 hit, covered by everyone from Shirley Bassey to Sonny and Cher, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass to Elvis Presley. 

Especially poignant for me is Matheny’s cover of Charlie Haden and Quartet West’s 1995 “Here’s Looking at You,” itself a tribute to the classic noir films that inspired Quartet West’s rich, romantic sound. It’s a beautiful, elegiac nod to a recently fallen comrade. 

Like Haden, Dmitri Matheny is an artist who manages to find beauty blooming in the darkest corners. He’s a good man to have along if you’re planning a long drive through an uncertain night. 

—Eddie Muller 

Known internationally as the “Czar of Noir,” Eddie Muller is a writer, producer and impresario. He is the founder of the Film Noir Foundation, which rescues and restores at-risk noir films from around the globe, and producer and host of San Francisco’s NOIR CITY, the largest festival of film noir in the world (now with seven satellite festivals around the U.S.). He frequently appears on Turner Classic Movies, and has lectured on film noir at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Christmas List 



Dear Santa,

As you know, Christmas Day is also my birthday. 

 

This year, I've been a very good boy and a hard working dog.

 

Please bring me anything from this list:

 

  • CD: Grand River Crossings by Geri Allen
  • Book: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • DVD: Johnny Staccato
  • Large black Rudy Vallee-style megaphone
  • Autographed Nicholas Payton pocket square
  • Medjool dates grown in Dateland AZ
  • Custom personal cologne designed by David Carlos Valdez
  • Working replica of the Mystic Seer
  • Hat like the one Mark Gross wears on the cover of Blackside
  • Property taxes windfall
  • Chili and lime saladitos

 

Thank you!

 

Love,

 

Dmitri

BEFORE MOTOWN 



We're putting together a jazz residency in Michigan next spring, with concerts in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo, and workshops at colleges and high schools throughout the state. These will be my first Michigan appearances since attending Interlochen Arts Academy 30 years ago, and I'm very excited about getting back to the Great Lake State.

As part of my preparation, I've been brushing up on the cultural history of the region. A great resource is the book Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit 1920-1960 by Lars Bjorn with Jim Gallert — a very well-researched and enlightening volume, drawn largely from the oral histories of seminal musicians who lived and worked there. Highly recommended.

~DM

IMPRESSIONABLE 



When I was young and asking the big questions, I learned most of what I still believe about loyalty, bravery and morality from the Silver Age superheroes in my comic book collection.

 

For real.

 

In later years I would travel internationally, study world religions, read classic works of philosophy and ethics, and even pay attention to my father's many lectures. I went to private school, public school, boarding school and the school of hard knocks. I'm an educated cat.

 

But to this day, when the world tests my mettle or challenges my sense of right and wrong, it's not Spinoza but my inner Green Lantern who shows up for the fight.

 

I've always been impressionable in this way. 

 

For example, I'm pretty sure I have a goatee because of the way Spock looked in "Mirror, Mirror." I know I started wearing dashikis in high school because of a picture I saw of Elvin Jones in Downbeat. I sport a beret on stage because Dizzy did.

 

Today, while watching Highlander for the godzillionth time, I noticed something about Christopher Lambert's home. Like so many characters in films of the 1980s and '90s, The Highlander lived in a loft.

 

It now occurs to me that my interior design preferences and bone-deep love of warehouse loft spaces and mid-century modern furniture are not based on anywhere I've lived or anything I've seen or studied. They don't reflect some sophisticated notion about the aesthetic requirements of an artist's life. They aren't because I need space to rehearse and create.

 

Nope. I learned about loft living from the movies. Dig: 

 

William Sanderson in Blade Runner (1982). Jennifer Beals in Flashdance (83). Lambert in Highlander (86). Barbara Hershey in Hannah and Her Sisters (86). Mickey Rourke in 9-1/2 Weeks (86). Tom Hanks in Big (88). Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally (89). Rosanna Arquette in New York Stories (89). Nancy Travis in So I Married An Axe Murderer (93). James Caan in Bottle Rocket (96). Ethan Hawke in Great Expectations (98). Julianne Moore in The Big Lebowski (98). Adam Sandler in Big Daddy (99). Christian Bale in American Psycho (00). Owen Wilson in Zoolander (01). Olivier Martinez in Unfaithful (02).

 

I want their cribs!

 

Thanks, Hollywood.

 

(Sure hope this flugelhorn thing works out.)

AFFECTION FOR THE WEST 

"I have such tremendous affection for the West that I would want anyone I love to experience it and to see it and to spend as much time there as possible. I would definitely want that experience for my family, but it's also not entirely a romantic thing. I mean, I don't want to romanticize the experiences of people who are living in rural, poor communities...or the desert. Our dominant cultural narrative totally devalues all three of those things: rural, poor and desert. So there was a sense when I was there that you're often told that where you are is not valuable or important. Just think about the way we talk about the desert as a wasteland or the middle of nowhere or it's barren. That's a really bizarre phenomenon, when you've spent your whole life in a place and then the culture tells you it actually doesn't even exist, and if it does exist, it's worthless. That's a bit of a heady place to be, I think, and that's partly what I was looking for with this book, was getting a portrait of the place that had never before been presented to me."

 

~Battleborn author Claire Vaye Watkins on NPR Fresh Air


WILL 


"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew 

To serve your turn long after they are gone, 

And so hold on when there is nothing in you 

Except the will which says to them: hold on..."

—Rudyard Kipling

 

"Your will turns thought into reality. 

You must learn to focus your will and 

create what you see in your mind. 

The limits are only what you can imagine."

—Tomar-Re

 

"The man who is to be great is the one who can be 

the most solitary, the most hidden, the most deviant, 

the man beyond good and evil, lord of his virtues, 

a man lavishly endowed with will."

—Friedrich Nietzsche

FROM THE ARCHIVES 

On This Day
March 3, 1995
Dmitri Matheny & The SOMA Ensemble
Visions of Kerouac
Kuumbwa Jazz Center
Santa Cruz, California



Dmitri Matheny, flugelhorn
Rob Scheps, saxophones
John Heller, guitar
Bill Douglass, bass
Alan Jones, drums

March 3, 1999
SFJAZZ Duos Series
Dmitri Matheny & Taylor Eigsti
Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel
San Francisco, California

THE EXPERTS AGREE 



"Determine never to be idle. Don't ask. Act. 

Your action will delineate and define you."

—Thomas Jefferson

 

"The secret to getting ahead is getting started. 

Engage your mind and heart, get up, and go."

—Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

 

"How you gonna do it if you really don't wanna dance?

By standing on the wall? Get your back up off all wall!"

—Kool & The Gang

THE ROWING SONG by Roald Dahl 



There's no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going!
There's no knowing where we're rowing,
Or which way they river's flowing!
Is it raining? Is it snowing?
Is a hurricane a-blowing?
Bah! Not a speck of light is showing,
So the danger must be growing,
Are the fires of hell a-blowing?
Is the grizzly reaper mowing?
Yes! The danger must be growing,
For the rowers keep on rowing,
And they're certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing...

TECHNO-GRATITUDE 

Today I was able to re-connect with several clients and friends, learn Art Farmer's solo on "The Squirrel," check out Donny McCaslin's set @jazzbaltica, study a new twist on a favorite business practice, admire some beautiful photos, peruse the amazing reading list of @Art_Garfunkel, listen to a cool BBC interview with @Jimmy Cobb, read @JasonDCrane's latest poem, and watch a classic Star Trek episode -- all without leaving my solitary bunker in the lonesome desert. Thanks, Internet!

WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES 



"A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses;
it is an idea that possesses the mind."
—Robert Oxton Bolt

"For those who believe, no proof is necessary.
For those who don't believe, no proof is possible."
—Stuart Chase

"The world is divided into two classes:
those who believe the incredible,
and those who do the improbable."
—Oscar Wilde

BETTER 


"It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool
than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."
—Mark Twain

"Tis better to hit an air ball,
than to force a note
that don't wanna come out."
—Nicholas Payton

"Even a bad cup of coffee is better
than no coffee at all."
—David Lynch

LOVE 



"I have loved to the point of madness;
That which is called madness,
That which to me, is the only sensible way to love."
—Françoise Sagan

"Love is an irresistible desire
to be irresistibly desired."
—Robert Frost

"Love all, trust a few,
do wrong to none."
—William Shakespeare

"When love is in excess, it brings a man
no honor nor worthiness."
—Euripides

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts,
there can be no more hurt, only more love."
—Mother Theresa

"The ultimate choice for a man,
in as much as he is given to transcend himself,
is to create or destroy, to love or to hate."
—Erich Fromm

"I love lamp."
—Brick Tamland

REMEMBERING ERNEST HEMINGWAY On His Birthday 



Hemingway On Literature

All good books have one thing in common.
They are truer than if they had really happened.

On Living & Dying
Every man's life ends the same way.
It is only the details of how he lived
and how he died that distinguish
one man from another.

On Company
The only thing that could spoil a day was people.
People were always the limiters of happiness
except for the very few that were
as good as spring itself.

On Action
The shortest answer
is doing the thing.

On Happiness
Happiness in intelligent people
is the rarest thing I know.

On Greatness
Let him think I am more man
than I am and I will be so.

COMMUNITY 


"An outsider longing to be on the inside is the same as the soloist longing to work in an ensemble. I get great satisfaction in being a part of the proper -- for me -- community. I'm uncomfortable with various social groupings and clusterings. But when I'm in the right group, doing the right thing, I get as much satisfaction out of that as anyone who does it all the time.
Maybe more."
—George Carlin

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
—Kurt Vonnegut

"Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble!
We accept her! We accept her!
One of us! One of us!"
—Johnny Eck