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Chet Williamson releases "Chromatic Noir"

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An electronic version of the new CD by the “Chromatic" Chet Williamson is now available at: bandcamp.com. The 13-track, all-original album (with hidden material), features Williamson on harmonicas, pianist Joe Mazzarella, and special guest Jimmy Morrell on guitar and bass.

Chromatic Noir is what the title implies. It is about both lightness and darkness. It is the black and white keys of the piano. It is music inspired by film noir.

In addition to co-authoring the material, I play the harmonica, not the Mississippi saxophone, but the one with the trigger, the chromatic. My co-conspirator is Joe Mazzarella, who not only contributes compositions and arrangements, but doubles on piano, simulated strings, and bass. The backup is guitarist Jimmy Morrell, who gives the project its bite and edge, supplying ambient textures and indispensable tonal details.

My passion for film noir dates back to the 1970s. While working as a projectionist for Nick Rock's film series at the Worcester Public Library, I rolled tape on many a classic. My particular favorites include D.O.A., Gun Crazy, and A Touch of Evil.

Mazzarella is a product of the New England Conservatory, where he studied with Ran Blake, whose recorded history of noir-inspired music is well documented. Morrell brought to the session his extensive working relationship with both Williamson and Mazzarella.

Jazz and noir go way back. They have shared mutual landscapes—nightlife and the underworld; conducted parallel lives and occasionally intersecting to make many a movie sing. Think of “Chinatown" sans the brooding trumpet or “Sweet Smell of Success" without the Chico Hamilton Quintet.

Jazz figures themselves are often the living embodiment of noir and a number of their compositions could supply the dark celluloid its soundtrack. Think Miles and his performance of “It Never Entered My Mind;" Monk, 'Round Midnight, or the Mingus Lester Young tribute, “Goodbye Porkpie Hat."

Many a jazz standard were first introduced in noir films—"Blue Gardenia," “Laura," and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," or became classics because of the genre: “Again," “To Each His Own," “Suddenly It's Spring," “Moanin' Low," and “Stella by Starlight," among others.

Chromatic Noir is not a cover album, however. It is an entirely original project in search of its own imagery. To quote the protagonist from “Double Indemnity," Chromatic Noir is “the stuff that dreams are made of" ... not to mention, the residue of nightmares. In a world of high anxiety, disillusionment and overall bleakness in the face of any kind of future, it was conceived as a disarming antidote, offering romanticism, lyricism and hard-boiled poetry for the weary soul.

The album is dedicated to Sam Fuller, Arthur Kennedy and Jaki Byard.

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