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Russell Malone – Love Looks Good On You – HighNote

Russell Malone – Love Looks Good On You – HighNote HCD 7268, 51:33 ****:

(Russell Malone – guitar; Rick Germanson – piano; Gerald Cannon – bass; Willie Jones III – drums)

Although guitarist Russell Malone’s earliest working relationships were with the redoubtable organist Jimmy Smith and then into a period with Harry Connick, Jr., it wasn’t until Malone joined Diana Krall’s Trio in the mid-90s that he began to gain some recognition as a distinctive guitarist. Stylistically aligned with George Benson and Wes Montgomery, he has emerged as a player with a firm, smooth, style as evidenced on this release Love Looks Good On You.

Launching with Mulgrew Miller’s “Soul Leo” signals an auspicious session with Malone’s single-note lines figuring prominently in the reading over a very busy rhythm section. As an interesting juxtaposition, Malone’s own ballad composition “Love Looks Good On You” has a slight Latin lilt that infuses the theme. Smarty played, it is his fleet fingering that carries the tune.

Although Thad Jones wrote “The Elder” for guitarist Freddie Green and The Count Basie Band, it works equally well in a small setting, as bassist Gerald Cannon holds the rhythm line to good effect. Malone offers chord voicing that fit the blues-based composition. Malone does a lovely cover version of Isaac Hayes’ “Ellie’s Love Theme” written for the movie Shaft. However he takes it at a much slower tempo, which gives it an entirely different feel.

There is no question that from start to finish this is Russell Malone’s outing. Nevertheless, the support he receives from the band’s rhythm section is thoughtful and empathetic. This abundantly clear with George Coleman’s “Amsterdam After Dark” with drummer Willie Jones III laying down some intricate rhythms and pianist Germanson taking solid solo interspersed with some tight block chords. On the final selection Freddie Hubbard’s “Suite Sioux” Malone runs the fret board at top speed, with the rhythm section locked into a groove that is equally ambitious.

Lead by Russell Malone’s exhilarating guitar lines, this is lively and melodic band.

TrackList: Soul Leo; Love Looks Good On You; The Elder; Ellie’s Love Theme; Your Zowie Face; Mirrors; Amsterdam After Dark; Lift Every Voice And Sing; Suite Sioux

—Pierre Giroux

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