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Album Review

The example of Wes Montgomery is so ingrained into the jazz-guitar culture that sooner or later, everyone wants a crack at playing with a string section. Not everyone gets that opportunity, but when you're signed to a major label with an aficionado of plush settings like Tommy LiPuma in charge, your chances of making a string album are going to be pretty good. Thus the Russell Malone string album, a relaxed, easygoing, midnight-hour set of ten tracks polished to a fare-thee-well by a coterie of pros who seem bent upon adding another album by a surrogate Montgomery to the Verve catalog. How do you know that Malone had Montgomery on the brain? Just listen to the first notes of the Milt Jackson title track that opens the album; it's exactly the same riff that led off Montgomery's Bumpin' album. Stylistically, though, Malone is his own man, playing with one basic mellow, somewhat slender tone, resisting the temptation to indulge in the great one's patented octaves. The string charts, whether penned by Johnny Mandel, Alan Broadbent, or Dori Caymmi — expert stringmen all — tend to sound the same, laying on a glossy, sophisticated, muted carpet while thankfully not trying to fill every space and corner of the sound stage. It would be hard to assemble a more distinguished rhythm section in 2001 — pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts — than this one, but they're just around to keep things rolling steadily. Malone does an especially beautiful job with "Why Try to Change Me Now" — and there is one tune of his own, "Loved Ones," that fits seamlessly into the pattern. Yet for all of his gifts, Malone doesn't deliver the heartstopping flashes of inspired improvised melody that made the Montgomery orchestral albums so ceaselessly listenable over the decades. That's the crucial ingredient that Montgomery took with him to the grave. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi


Born: 08 November 1963 in Albany, GA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

An adept jazz guitarist with a clean attack and fluid, lyrical style, Russell Malone often plays in a swinging, straight-ahead style weaving in elements of blues, gospel, and R&B. Born in Albany, Georgia in 1963, Malone first began playing guitar around age four on a toy instrument, quickly graduating to the real thing. Largely self-taught, he initially drew inspiration listening to the recordings of gospel and blues artists including the Dixie Hummingbirds and B.B. King. However, after seeing George...
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Heartstrings, Russell Malone
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