The versatility of vibraphonist Joe Locke comes to the fore here, one album moody with intricately arranged, programmatic/impressionistic music, the other a loose quartet date emphasizing solos as much as tunes.
There's a mid-20th Century feel to Nocturne for Ava, evoking that time when melodic jazz found its way into TV show themes and movie soundtracks. It also uses instrumentation - augmented in places by horns - made popular by the George Shearing Quintet of that era, employing unison or harmony lines from piano, guitar and vibes. The program, as the group's name suggests, draws from film noir and neo-noir soundtracks, managing to blend in three originals that fit the programmatic mold and spirit.
Guitarist Bob Sneider and Locke share leader billing, but originals and arrangements are also contributed by trumpeter John Sneider, pianist Paul Hofmann and tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart. "Last Tango in Paris" features the full octet (also including bassist Martin Wind, drummer Tim Horner and percussionist Lusito Quintero) in an arrangement that ups the tempo and adds tropical accents, including bird call whistles under the vibes' out chorus, while preserving the sinuous Gato Barbieri-composed tenor sax lead. The Shearing Quintet combination prevails on a "Laura" framed by arco bass solos, Locke's hypnotic title tune and, surprisingly, "Los Feliz" from the Siesta soundtrack. Harmon-muted trumpet adds melancholy obligati to a dreamy "Afterglow" and voices the bridge on the trumpeter's ticking clock tempoed "Black Dahlia". The seductive, haunting power of relatively short, catchy kernels of melody in film themes is mined by the arrangers effectively with repeating but evolving motifs as undercurrents on the supremely dark "Theme from Blow Up" and "I Want to Live Main Theme" as well as the more uptempo "Windmills of Your Mind" and "Flirtibird", the latter from the pioneering jazz score by Duke Ellington for Anatomy of a Murder.