Guitarist Russell Malone answers his well-received Playground (MaxJazz, 2004) with this, his first live recording, documenting performances at New York's Jazz Standard. Malone has traded recent over-populated groups for his working band, a simple piano trio. The trio, under crack pianist Martin Bejerano's sharp direction, conveys a solid momentum and cyclotron swing.
Only two "standards appear among the disc's seven pieces, and Malone easily proves himself an excellent composer. The guitarist opens the disc with his "He Said What?, a soul-jazz romp with a Latin tinge. Malone provides a linear solo of anticipation and acquisition. His guitar temperament is perfectly balanced and his development measured. Bejerano builds a completely antithetical solo to Malone's, beginning his approach in an angular fashion, throwing the dynamics off just enough to create a subconscious interest. Malone reenters, shooting a machine gun fusillade of 32nd and 64th notes among the crashing cymbals of Johnathan Blake.
Another original, "I Saw You Do It, propels forward with a clock-perfect 4/4 swing maintained by bassist Tassili Bond, playing just behind the beat. Malone plays octaves and half octaves among his single-note and chord soloing. Blake drops Philly Joe rim shots like a carpet-bombing campaign. "Flirt is an off-waltz waltz characterized by Malone's silky smooth approach and tone. Blake's cymbal playing is light and delicate, crystalline and temporary as snowflakes. Frank Rosolino's "Blue Daniel provides Malone his ballad vehicle, buoyed by a complex rhythm and harmonic pattern. Bejerano's piano is almost independent of the piece, while still maintaining its harmonic scaffolding. Milt Jackson's "Heartstrings take off at a breakneck pace, full of blues and bop. Malone proves he has Joe Pass speed with his Wes Montgomery/Grant Green chording.
Malone finally makes it to the blues with a minor-key piece reminiscent of a marriage between "One More for the Road and "Angel Eyes. "Malone Blues is a perfect way to end a superb disc. Let's hope that Volume Two is not too far behind.
Track Listing: He Said What?; I Saw You Do It; Flirt; Blue Daniel; Mean Streak; Heartstrings; Malone Blues.
Personnel: Russell Malone: guitar; Martin Bejerano: piano; Tassili Bond: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.
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