Sweet Georgia Peach is one of 1998's most compelling mainstream jazz releases. Guitarist Russell Malone (b. 1963), known better for his sideman roles with Jimmy Smith, Harry Connick, Brandford Marsalis, Diana Krall and Mose Allison, has produced quite a fine jazz document here, in only his third effort as a leader.
He's a musician of many gifts, who never seems consciously influenced by any particular guitarist or even a direct musical style. Indirectly, he can suggest the moodswings of Larry Coryell. But such a declaration subjugates the quality of Malone's individual conceptions.
Here, Malone is captured in an all-star quartet featuring pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Lewis Nash. For a studio ensemble, this one is a tight unit that works quite well together. The bulk of the music consists of Malone's originals. He's a fine, notable composer with a gift for burying the implicit technique of his ideas under the genuine appeal of his melodies.
Check out the intriguing mid-tempo "To Benny Golson," the Larry Coryell like "Mugshot" (with an exceptionally spirited solo from Barron) and the funky "Freedom Jazz Dance" groove of the intricately-paced title track (with another great feature for Barron). The waltz he wrote for his son, "Song for Darius," offers another memorable melody and yet another expert showcase for Barron's piano artistry.
Malone's playing stands out especially on the covers he performs, most especially on the evocative "Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat" and the wonderful piano-guitar duo of Monk's "Bright Mississippi." What's most surprising, though, is how Malone rethinks two late 1970s hits. Hear how he stretches Herb Alpert's disco trash, "Rise," into a compelling mid-tempo ballad. Then listen to his sincere reconsideration of the Billy Preston/Syreeta hit "With You I'm Born Again" (to my knowledge, the only other jazz cover of this was Eric Gale's in 1980). "Born Again" is preceded by Malone's "Strange Little Smile" a terrific lullaby, like his solo rendition of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" that suggests Malone has developed quite a niche specialty.
Sweet Georgia Peach offers truly enjoyable traditional jazz and provides provocative evidence of Russell Malone's emerging talents. Recommended.
Songs:Mugshot; To Benny Golson; Strange Little Smile/With You I'm Born Again; Sweet Georgia Peach; Rise; Mean What You Say; Song For Darius; Bright Mississippi; Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat; For Toddler's Only; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.
Players:Russell Malone: guitar; Ron Carter: bass; Kenny Barron: piano; Lewis Nash: drums; Steve Kroon: percussion on "Mugshot" and "Rise."
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.