Dedicated to the memories of jazz guitarist Ted Greene and jazz pianist John Hicks, this session features Russell Malone at work in New York with his band during a spirited three-night run at the Jazz Standard in September 2005.
Always one to keep the blues alive in his mainstream jazz programs, Malone communicates eloquently through his guitar with a soft-edged attack that carries vocal-like through the room, as if lyrics were attached to every phrase.
It goes way beyond his experience backing pianists Harry Connick, Jr. and Diana Krall. Before that, Malone moved around some; from his home in Albany, Georgia where he was exposed to all forms of music, to a musical trail that led him to New York and the world.
His background isn't limited to jazz. In order to communicate fully with his audience, he grabs pieces from Latin jazz, R&B, contemporary pop and blues, then rolls it all into one comfortable package.
At 43, Malone is at a crossroads. Rapid-fingered romps and warm ballads can be employed to bring back distant memories or they can be used to surge ahead in search of creativity. Fortunately, he's decided to grow gradually without losing sight of guitar masters such as Grant Green, Wes Montgomery and Les Paul.
Lyricism remains a vital part Malone's music, and he certainly has achieved a unique guitar voice in jazz's mainstream. His powerful technique erupts when he wants it to, while his warm and mellow ballad material rests comfortably on yearning ears.
The session on this first volume of his experience at the Jazz Standard combines the blazing fast "Mean Streak with the warm and personal "Flirt. Both are Malone compositions. "Heartstrings, by Milt Jackson, lets Malone express the blues from deep within, while "Blue Daniel runs lightly over more familiar territory.
"Malone Blues closes Volume One with an introspective look at the artist as storyteller. Like bluesmen Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, he chooses to sleep in a hollow log for this final number, no doubt bringing the audience to its feet. How could they not be overwhelmed by the down-home spirit that Malone brought to this Jazz Standard audience through his winning performance.
Personnel: Russell Malone: guitar; Martin Bejerano: piano; Tassili Bond: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.