Benny Green, piano; Russell Malone, guitar
It was an era peopled by gods and goddesses.42nd Streetwas their Mt.Olympus, and we were yours truly still is in awe of them. Webster and Parker and Hawkins and Gillespie, Billie Holliday and Ella and Sassy and, well, just complete the list, Prez, Bud Powell, Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, Trane and Ray Brown. And a couple of dozen more of those musicians who were (one or two still hang on to the mortal coil) Jazz for us, who will always represent the essence of what was the wine that intoxicated us for so many decades.
Veteran fans had cause to feel nervous about their heroes leaving a void beyond filling. Relax, there are a few coming along who display the same greatness. No kidding. Green and Malone are the real stuff, the hard stuff. Their musicality is probably even greater than some of our past heroes, and you can feel that special tension and flawless sense of swing that gives the fans the feeling of coming home.
Both are more than equal partners on this gig, which must have been a great night out for the fans. It is quite amazing that Malone is able to hold his own against the mechanically aided strings of a piano. The guitarist is phenomenal. Mind you, Green is also nothing less than marvelous, ranging over a fair selection of styles. On "A Bientôt" (track 3) he actually conjures up a French inflection, which is perfectly intoxicating. Malone has a rep for long, perfectly constructed lines, and not a little funkiness (the fans get themselves knocked out on several occasions). Green gives a lovely, brief straight rendering of "Killing Me Softly" and Malone literally teases and plays the crowd on "How Deep Is Your Love?" Which means, of course, this is where pop music belongs. But then it is back to the likes of Strayhorn and Coltrane.
One could hardly find recommendation enough for this beautiful set. An absolute must.
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