275

Russell Malone: Playground

By

Sign in to view read count
Russell Malone: Playground Considering the breadth of his talent, it is somewhat surprising that Russell Malone has recorded somewhat sparingly as a leader. On this, his sixth and arguably best disc to date, he confirms his status as one of the most versatile straight-ahead jazz guitarists playing music today. Malone is at home in a wide range of styles and here he clearly shows just how well he can play in many of them. Joined by his working quartet with pianist Martin Berjano, bassist Tasili Bond, and drummer E.J. Strickland, the leader solidly swings through his own tasteful production of six originals and four classics from the standard jazz and pop repertory, including a couple of pleasant surprises.

The date opens with Malone’s own “You Should Know Better,” a soulful swinger demonstrating his southerner’s taste for rhythm and blues, followed by another original, the difficult, intelligently crafted modernistic “Blues For Mulgrew.” The guitarist introduces Billy Strayhorn’s “Something To Live For” with a beautiful solo recital before being joined by the trio for a most sensitive reading of the sophisticated ballad. Vibraphonist Joe Locke joins Malone and mates for “Sugar Buzz,” a highflying up-tempo romp through some labyrinthine rhythm changes by the leader. “Playground,” the date’s title track, is a loping, bluesy, folkish original complete with startlingly successful quotes from the nursery rhyme repertoire (“Did You Ever See A Lassie?”, “This Old Man”) by Malone. On “Remind Me” the 40-year-old Malone demonstrates his mature mastery of the ballad in an unaccompanied performance of the Jerome Kern classic.

The date’s most surprising inclusion, the Carpenters' “We’ve Only Just Begun,” is outfitted with a rock-and-roll-ish introduction leading into a swinging Wes Montgomery-modeled interpretation of the familiar melody. Malone’s “Invisible Colors” is a pleasant piece, alternating light and dark passages, that was first unveiled on the guitarist’s eponymous 1992 debut disc. Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz is added to group for “Mandela,” a powerful dedication from the leader out of the Coltrane mold, with Strickland rhythmically reminiscent of Elvin Jones. Malone ends the set, alone again, with a romantic rendering of Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend.” For an encore, there’s a bonus CD-ROM video track of the quartet swinging on Malone’s Sweet Georgia Peach piece “Mugshot,” in a live performance recorded at Smoke.


Track Listing: 1. You Should Know Better (Malone) - 6:37 2. Blues for Mulgrew (Malone) - 4:31 3. Something to Live For (Strayhorn) - 3:51 4. Sugar Buzz (Malone) - 4:44 5. Playground (Malone) - 5:25 6. Remind Me (Fields/Kern) - 4:19 7. We've Only Just Begun (Carpenter/Carpenter) - 4:59 8. Invisible Colors (Malone) - 6:49 9. Mandela (Malone) - 7:03 10. You've Got a Friend (King) - 3:42 11. Mugshot [*/multimedia track] (Malone)

Personnel: Russell Malone, guitar Martin Bejerano, piano; Tassili Bond, bass; E.J. Strickland, drums; Gary Bartz, alto saxophone; Joe Locke, vibes.

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: MAXJAZZ | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark CD/LP/Track Review The MUH Trio – Prague After Dark
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Les Deux Versants Se Regardent CD/LP/Track Review Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
by John Sharpe
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Molto Bene CD/LP/Track Review Molto Bene
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 23, 2017
Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read "Sunkissed" CD/LP/Track Review Sunkissed
by Jeff Winbush
Published: September 11, 2016
Read "Pensamiento" CD/LP/Track Review Pensamiento
by James Nadal
Published: January 7, 2017
Read "Beam Me Up" CD/LP/Track Review Beam Me Up
by Dave Wayne
Published: April 21, 2016
Read "Subtle Energy" CD/LP/Track Review Subtle Energy
by Geannine Reid
Published: October 13, 2016
Read "Koan" CD/LP/Track Review Koan
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 12, 2016
Read "No Filter" CD/LP/Track Review No Filter
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 11, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

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!

Buy it!