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 For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Triple Double CD/LP/Track Review Triple Double
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Agrima CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 21, 2017
Read The Study of Touch CD/LP/Track Review The Study of Touch
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 20, 2017
Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read "Left Right Left" CD/LP/Track Review Left Right Left
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Moments Captured" CD/LP/Track Review Moments Captured
by Andrew Luhn
Published: May 12, 2017
Read "Another Time: The Hilversum Concert" CD/LP/Track Review Another Time: The Hilversum Concert
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 3, 2017
Read "Rebirth" CD/LP/Track Review Rebirth
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 4, 2017
Read "Glenn Gould in Russia: Bach, Beethoven, Berg, Webern, Krenek" CD/LP/Track Review Glenn Gould in Russia: Bach, Beethoven, Berg, Webern, Krenek
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 16, 2017
Read "Wish You Were Here" CD/LP/Track Review Wish You Were Here
by Jim Olin
Published: April 3, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.