Amazon.com Widgets

Russell Malone: Playground (2004)

By Published: | 6,073 views
Russell Malone: Playground No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

MaxJazz, which has showcased jazz musicians in series devoted to various instruments (piano, horns, vocals), tapped guitarist Russell Malone to launch its String Series—an inspired choice, as Malone is one of the fastest rising stars on the contemporary jazz horizon, a superb technician who plays with exceptional warmth and congeniality.

Playground is basically a quartet date showcasing Malone’s working group with brief guest appearances by two highly accomplished and widely underrated artists, vibraphonist Joe Locke (“Sugar Buzz”) and alto saxophonist Gary Bartz (“Mandela”). Malone wrote six of the ten selections, including those two, and while I’ve nothing against Malone the guitarist/composer, the songs that most pleased my ear are the four that weren’t—Billy Strayhorn’s “Something to Live For,” Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields’ “Remind Me,” Richard and Karen Carpenter’s “We’ve Only Just Begun” (set to a seductive Latin beat) and Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” Malone plays unaccompanied on “Friend,” as he does on “Remind Me,” showing in each instance that he needs no help whatever to weave a lustrous musical tapestry. In fact, without disparaging the contributions of pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist Tassili Bond or drummer E.J. Strickland, which are sizable, I wouldn’t have been displeased by an entire album of Malone’s solo guitar. Perhaps MaxJazz could consider doing that at some future date.

Meanwhile, we have Playground, and it’s a largely pleasurable outing with splendid blowing by all hands. My preference for the four songs noted above isn’t meant to imply that Malone’s compositions are without merit — as a whole they’re pretty good, especially “Playground” and “Invisible Colors.” The rapid-fire “Sugar Buzz” gives everyone a chance to show his chops, while the darkly painted “Mandela” is a sturdy vehicle for Bartz’s unvarnished alto and Malone’s chordal meditations. A solid debut for the String Series and for Malone as a member of the MaxJazz team.

Track Listing: You Should Know Better; Blues for Mulgrew; Something to Live For; Sugar Buzz; Playground; Remind Me; We

Personnel: Russell Malone, guitar; Martin Bejerano, piano; Tassili Bond, bass; E.J. Strickland, drums. Special guests

Record Label: MAXJAZZ

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


comments powered by Disqus
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Mort Weiss

Mort Weiss

About | Enter

Rotem Sivan

Rotem Sivan

About | Enter

Michael Carvin

Michael Carvin

About | Enter

Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash

Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash

About | Enter

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

A musician was found with a matching name

Name:

Birthday:

Instrument:

Is this you?