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Russell Malone (Guitar) and Benny Green (Piano). Titles are: 'Reunion Blues' (Milt Jackson), 'It's Alright With Me' (Cole Porter), 'You Are the Sunshine of My Life' (Stevie Wonder), 'Who Can I Turn To?' (Leslie Bricusse / Anthony Newley), 'Love for Sale'
After studying classical music as a child, pianist Benny Green became irresistibly drawn to the classic bebop recordings of the 1940s and 1950s. The hard-bop revival of the 1980s was the perfect launching pad for Green's career, and he spent some of his early professional years with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, with additional tenures playing in the bands of Betty Carter and Freddie Hubbard. For his fourth Telarc outing, Green teams up with guitarist Russell Malone--the pair has known one another for some 15 years--and this set follows a series of duo performances they've done during the past decade. Both know how to swing with an infectious ferociousness, running in and around the rhythm with contrasting harmonic underpinnings and buoyant melodic solo excursions. They also share an abiding respect for songcraft, drawing from both popular writers (Cole Porter, Stevie Wonder) and jazz titans (Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker, Milt Jackson). What's more, it's often remarkable to hear how they can instinctively allow ample room for the other to shine. --David Greenberger
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The program mixes classic Cole Porter ("It's Alright," "Love for Sale") with Wonder-Hathaway-Flack 70's pop ("You are the sunshine," "Where is the love," "Feel like making love") with movie and Broadway themes ("Moonglow," "Who can I turn to") with Oscar Peterson and Charlie Parker jazz standards ("Passport," " Bluebird," "Wheatland") and of course public domain (the blues). The two perform solo numbers and summon up a veritable history of jazz styles--from stride to boogie to swing to bebop to contemporary rock. Not surprisingly, Green evokes memories of Oscar Peterson but, especially in his improvising over his own walking bass lines, Dave McKenna as well; Russell Malone is a convincing Herb Ellis one moment, complete with the percussive rap on the body of the guitar, and the next he's a master at executing Wes Montgomery octaves.
In short, these are two comparatively youthful yet seasoned musicians at the top of their game, turning in a performance of surprising richness, color, and variety. I expected a competent but necessarily restrained and homogenous session. To my surprise and delight, the absence of bass, drums, horns and vocals doesn't turn down the heat or interest for a second; if anything, it encourages these overachievers to air out their considerable talents to the maximum. They not only make up for the missing musicians but prove them gratuitous. Rate this album as the best jazz release of 2004 as of mid-year.
It is mostly standards, with a few pop-ish songs ('you are the sunshine of my life'). The duo piano-guitar works flawlessly: when BG improvises, RM provides a steady bass line, either walking or drumming the chords. And reciprocally when RM solos. They really listen to each other and interplay a lot. They understand each other so well, it seems the music has been written down.
It is hard to say which one to pick between this one and 'jazz at the bistro'. I did not choose, I have both, but anyone interested in trying one of these cannot go wrong with either. Some might say 'bluebird' is not as good as 'jazz at the bistro': the reason would only be because they listened to the latter first, and the former did not create the surprise of the chemistry between BG and RM.
As far as the sound comment made by a reviewer below, I don't see where he is coming from. I don't have a super fancy stereo equipment, but a reasonable one, and I don't hear any imperfections. And I do listen quite closely for the many subtelties in this cd.
1. Sweet Georgia Peach (Ron Carter (b),Kenny Barron (p), Louis Nash (d), Russell Malone (g)) Great songs and great interaction between soloists and comping.
P.S Please Check Out My Reviews On The Recommended CDs!
I would have given this four stars if the recording wasn't so bad.
benny green is one of the most TALENTED jazz pianists today. he is original, fresh, talented and will be around for a very long time.
this album has gorgeous songs - the song selection is great.
i highly recommend it. also check out his other album "greens" - that one is a great solo album. "testifyin'" is also good.