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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

Russell Malone - Guitar, Kenny Barron - Piano, Christian McBride - Bass, Jeff "Tain" Watts - Drums.
String Orchestra - arrangements by Johnny Mandel, Alan Broadbent and Dori Caymmi.
Recorded 2000 . Dedicated to the memories of Milt Jackson and Stanley Turrentine.
Verve 549 786-2


1. Heartstrings
2. How About Me
3. Loved Ones
4. You Needed Me
5. Handful Of Stars
6. Wind In The Willow
7. Why Try To Change Me Now
8. The Bad And The Beautiful
9. Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To
10. What A Friend We Have In Jesus

Russell Malone has been the featured guitarist on the last four Diana Krall releases. This has obviously brought him to the attention of a much wider audience than would normally be the case for a jazz instrumentalist. This disc is an attempt, in part, to quite deservedly make capital of this unusual exposure and, as such, offers a more universal repertoire to appeal to a greater variety of listeners. This is not to say that the music here is lightweight, it is anything but that. However, the format applied here is that of the soloist plus strings playing a mainly familiar choice of material.

Malone is one of the most gifted guitar players to emerge in recent years. His style is rooted in players such as Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery. On the evidence I have heard there is very little of fusion or rock in his approach. He plays as if he is a continuation of the modern school of guitar before external non-jazz influences coloured the offerings of most players . This is in no sense derogatory to either of musician - it is, however, fascinating that a performer such as Malone can come through today - I suppose the other outstanding example of this phenomenon is Diana Krall herself.

Like all great soloists Malone has a distinctive sound on his instrument. It is lyrical with a wonderfully controlled and varied attack and there is a real sense of vocalisation in many of his lines. He uses clear, ringing harmonics often with a "hammered" effect.
The arrangements, by such luminaries as Alan Broadbent ( Quartet West ) and Johnny Mandel, are universally first class. The balance between soloist and orchestra is nigh on perfect - the one complementing the other throughout .

The rhythm section of Barron, McBride and Watts lives up to its stellar reputation and Malone is clearly at ease in such illustrious company.

The tracks are all of the same high standard - I particularly enjoyed the title track which is a Milt Jackson composition, "You Needed Me," "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry" and the final selection which is a most effective solo rendition of the old hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus". The album is dedicated to the memory of Milt Jackson and Stanley Turrentine and is Malone's third offering on the Verve label. It is certainly one of the most listenable and rewarding sessions I have heard recently.

Dick Stafford

D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry.



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