While singer Melissa Errico has always taken a lot of inspiration from film noir, she plunged deeply into the genre after the March, 2020 global coup d’etat. After a year and a half of watching movies, she was able to score enough studio time to record a vast seventeen-track collection of songs associated with noir cinema, Out Of The Dark: The Film Noir Project, streaming at Spotify. The music here is not particularly lurid: Errico comes from a theatrical background and is keenly aware that singing is acting, so a lot of these songs exist in the margins. Which, considering the genre, makes perfect sense. Even in the big aching crescendos, Errico doesn’t reach for anything more showy than a brittle vibrato.
Tedd Firth supplies flourishes at the piano, guitarist Bob Mann adds spare blues riffage and bassist Lorin Cohen keeps a sotto-voce presence behind Errico’s determined, inscrutable anti-heroine in the opening track, Angel Eyes.
Errico reaches for more towering angst over Firth’s glittery piano, David Mann adding misty sax in their take of With Every Breath I Take, drummer Eric Halvorson a ghostly presence with his brushes.
The band give Errico a slow, pillowy swing for her understated, Dinah Washington-inflected version of Written in the Stars , spiced with a wee-hours sax solo and Scott Wendholt’s spare trumpet.
Errico speaks for the tender but untrue over Firth’s lingering chords in their duo take of The Bad and the Beautiful. Haunted Heart (seriously, is there any other kind?) has the full rhythm section and a more tender, troubled vocal. She finally drops her guard in the descending cadences of Michel Legrand’s lusciously chromatic Amour, Amour, Joe Locke’s vibraphone harmonizing eerily with the piano.
Cellist Richard Locker is a whispery one-man string section in Silent Partner, Errico a forlorn accomplice in her own heartbreak. The album wouldn’t be complete without Farewell, My Lovely, or Laura: Errico gives the former a deadpan allure backed by Locke’s flickering vibes, while the latter gets a velvety bossa arrangement.
She sings Blame It On My Youth with a knowing gravitas, turning it into a wounded reminiscence. Checkin’ My Heart has a brassy cynicism and tinges of klezmer; a little later on, Errico has fun with a time-honored baseball metaphor or two in The Man That Got Away, one of the more expansive tracks here,
The album’s longest number, Detour Ahead has both distant foreboding and an epiphany, as well as some aptly nocturnal trumpet. The shortest one is a spare, tropical guitar-and-vocal version of Shadows and Light. True to the noir tradition, this album isn’t completely unproblematic: the material thins out toward the end, and Errico should have left the French-language material on the cutting room floor. A translator would have come in handy.