Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Ever since he hit the national scene, in the late 1980s, Russell Malone has made two things very clear. First, he plays with exquisite taste, at any tempo and in any setting. And second, his tastefulness hasn't crowded out his overwhelming technique: from the start, his ability to construct firecracker solos, exploding with complexity and virtuosic finesse, has never been in doubt. But on All About Melody Malone homed in on strong melodies. "I prefer to play songs that stick in my head, and in the listener's head" paired with harmonic schemes that might prompt imaginative improvisations. And indeed, each of the pieces Malone included on this session meets the bill. They also have one additional virtue: they are played by Russell's working band of Rick Germanson, Luke Sellick and Willie Jones III. Together they are able to selflessly convey the essence of these melodies and prove, to paraphrase Beethoven, "what comes from the heart, goes to the heart."
Personnel: Russell Malone (guitar); Rick Germanson (piano); Willie Jones III (drums).
Liner Note Author: Donald Elfman.
Recording information: Systems Two Recodings Studios, Brooklyn, NY (11/10/2015).
Photographer: Christopher Drukker.
Guitarist Russell Malone has always been a highly lyrical, melodic soloist and he spotlights this talent with his 2016 studio effort, All About Melody. Following up his similar small group album, 2015's Love Looks Good on You, All About Melody is a swinging, soulful, laid-back production showcasing Malone's knack for deftly delivered straight-ahead jazz. Joining Malone once again is his longtime working rhythm section of pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Luke Sellick, and drummer Willie Jones III. Together, this quartet makes supple, warm-toned instrumental music in which each player is totally jacked in, intrinsically working to complement the overall happy group vibe. With his big, hollow-body electric guitar, largely unadorned natural tone, and fluid, bop-inflected lines, Malone sounds positively exuberant here. To these ends, he revisits Freddie Hubbard's "On the Real Side," a groove-oriented number he first played on the trumpeter's last studio album. He then continues to pay homage to another of his stylistic inspirations, the late guitarist Jim Hall, with the hushed original "Message to Jim Hall." Poignantly, the track is followed by an actual phone message Hall left for Malone. Elsewhere, Malone keeps things vibrant and romantic with a sweet, unaccompanied take on "When a Man Loves a Woman," and equally amorous, afterglow-illuminated version of "Saving All My Love for You." However, it's not all candlelight and wine. Malone dances through Sonny Rollins' calypso "Nice Lady," and turns up the noise for a frenetic, funky take on Bill Lee's "Biskit." Ultimately, whether he's slipping into an intimate ballad or launching into a swaggering soul-jazz freakout, Malone keeps listeners hanging onto his melodies. ~ Matt Collar