Russell Malone can play it all rock, pop, country, blues, jazz you name it. But as anyone who has heard his recording knows, he's most at home (and comfortable) when he's playing jazz. And we as listeners are rewarded with some of the most beautiful sounds, tones and phrasing possible on the guitar. On Jazz at The Bistro
, Malone is joined by pianist Benny Green. While live recordings in small rooms (and St. Louis's The Bistro is a small club) can be even more difficult to properly record than "regular" live recordings, Jazz At The Bistro
is an excellent testament to Malone's and Green's virtuosity.
Malone's guitar is accompanied only by Green on piano. Their music is at times fast-paced and exciting and at other times laid-back and smooth. This dichotomy is best heard by listening to the upbeat "Tale of the Fingers" and comparing it ot "A Beintot." Both are beautiful and fantastic tracks and both couldn't be more different.
Jazz at The Bistro is comprised of fifteen tracks recorded over a span of four nights in the club. Malone and Green manage to put a fresh spin on many familiar '70s radio hits like the Carpenters' "Sing (Sing A Song)," "How Deep Is Your Love?" by the Bee Gees, Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now" (which also serves nicely as the CD's opening track) and Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly." They also do justice (even without bass, drums and sax) to Cannonball Adderley's "Wabash," Billy Strayhorn's "Intimacy of the Blues," and John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice/Lazy Bird." Malone and Green also play some of their own compositions. The highlights are Green's "Quiet Girl" and Malone's "Hand-Told Stories."
As with all Telarc recordings, the sound quality is superb. The music is crystal clear. Although the album only features two instruments and the song choices are quite ambitious, Green and Malone make the recording work by improvisingboth in arrangement and attitude.