Pianist/arranger/conductor Carlos Franzetti has been dreaming of a film noir project for many years, and it comes to full fruition on this program of very well chosen and diverse movie themes. The City of Prague Philharmonic is tasteful, restrained, and subtle, providing a lush feeling but never overwhelming. Then there's alto saxophonist Andy Fusco, a veteran jazz musician steeped in the tradition of boppers Charlie Parker and Phil Woods. Would it have been that he had taken the more subtle approach of Frank Morgan or Paul Desmond, this project could be more successful. While vibrant and kinetic, Fusco ofttimes plays far too many notes, altering the taste level of this otherwise wondrous and beautiful album. In his more restrained moments, Fusco's calmer alto is perfectly wedded with the strings during "The Bad and the Beautiful," the ballad from "Alfie," and the refined "The Voyage of the Damned." Approaching macabre, "A Place in the Sun" has that feeling of impending doom with a solo sax segment, but a chiming piano part reveals a dominant elegance. Three tracks feature Franzetti himself on piano -- the bluesy "I Want to Live," with vibes and flute accents from the Philharmonic muting Fusco, Herbie Hancock's lovely "Still Time" sans strings, and "Taxi Driver," perfectly evocative of the mystery of big city late night. There's a neat medium swing arrangement of "Girl Talk" and good interplay between the sax and strings, while the sexy "Body Heat" brings light, transparent vistas to the sensual dance, and "Last Tango in Paris," while the ultimate instrumental torch song, is nonetheless shaken and stirred by Fusco's flurries of notes. How you appreciate his role in this music depends on your taste level, as it can either be a turn on or an irritation. What is not as evident unless you listen closely is the piano playing for the bulk of this material by Allison Brewster Franzetti -- a diamond among diamonds. Nonetheless this is clearly a finely crafted contemporary jazz recording that stands out from others of its ilk.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos