Russell Malone, guitar – All About Melody – HighNote

Russell Malone – All About Melody – HighNote HCD7287, 50:20 ****:

Russell Malone is a guitarist of subtlety and conviction.

(Russell Malone – guitar; Rick Germanson – piano; Luke Sellick – bass; Willie Jones III – drums)

BRussell Malone is a swinging fleet-fingered guitarist with a sentimental streak. The latest studio session from him entitled All About Melody displays his lyricism, and affinity with keeping the melody in the forefront of this no-frills session.

Working with his usual cohorts, pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Luke Sellick, and drummer Willie Jones III, the band gives meaning to the whole enterprise that features an eclectic mixture of lesser-known numbers from the jazz and popular music archives. Freddie Hubbard’s “On The Real Side” establishes the band’s bona fides with a solid swinger. Drummer Jones III lays down a beat that gives both Malone and Germanson the freedom to roam at will with tight solos.

The late great guitarist Jim Hall was both a friend and paragon of Malone’s. In this vein, he wrote “Message To Jim Hall” and offered a touching voice mail message from him “Message From Jim Hall”. As for the composition, it has a melancholy undercurrent, done in a calm style,with a thoughtful solo from pianist Germanson. The Sonny Rollins’ calypso number “Nice Lady” came from his album Road Shows Vol 1. The Caribbean rhythm established by drummer Jones III is all that Malone requires to go on a musical expedition with the longest track on the album.

Two popular songs with strong melodic components and love themes are the Percy Sledge hit “When A Man Loves A Woman” and Whitney Houston’s rendition of “Saving All My Love For You”. On the former Malone gives a striking solo performance that captures the essence of the tune, focusing on the attractive melody. As for the latter, Malone acknowledges the underlying heartache implied by the song. His reading has a soulful expressiveness without straying far from the melody. “Haunted Heart” from the 1948 revue Inside USA is another perfect example of Malone’s sensitivity with the ballad form, as he can be at home in the style without being maudlin. The number also has some nice chording references to the late guitarist Johnny Smith.

TrackList: On The Real Side; Message To Jim Hall; Message From Jim Hall;Nice Lady; Sound For Sore Ears; When A Man Loves A Woman; Saving All My Love For You; Jive Hoot; Haunted Heart; Biskit;
He’s Gone Away

—Pierre Giroux

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