Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

224

Russell Malone: Playground

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
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: Your Should Know Better; Blues For Mulgrew; Something To Live For; Sugar Buzz; Playground; Remind Me; We

Personnel: Russell Malone

Title: Playground | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: MAXJAZZ


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Swinging In The Holidays CD/LP/Track Review Swinging In The Holidays
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 11, 2017
Read Cycles of Animation CD/LP/Track Review Cycles of Animation
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 11, 2017
Read Secret Passages CD/LP/Track Review Secret Passages
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 11, 2017
Read Live At The Magic Triangle CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Magic Triangle
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 11, 2017
Read Music in the Room CD/LP/Track Review Music in the Room
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 10, 2017
Read Of Light and Shadows CD/LP/Track Review Of Light and Shadows
by Phillip Woolever
Published: December 9, 2017
Read "Life on the Edge" CD/LP/Track Review Life on the Edge
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 13, 2017
Read "Two Roads" CD/LP/Track Review Two Roads
by Jim Olin
Published: May 12, 2017
Read "Kingdom" CD/LP/Track Review Kingdom
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 20, 2017
Read "Rímur" CD/LP/Track Review Rímur
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 15, 2017
Read "A Pouting Grimace" CD/LP/Track Review A Pouting Grimace
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 15, 2017
Read "Seasons 1-4 Live" CD/LP/Track Review Seasons 1-4 Live
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: January 6, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!