“Pianist Green and guitarist Malone share a similar blend of technical expertise (each can play in virtually any jazz style) and understated expressiveness.” —Don Heckman, Los Angeles Times
Benny Green and Russell Malone, whose live Jazz at the Bistro in 2003 garnered high critical praise from all corners, come together again—this time in the studio—for the release of bluebird, a collection of twelve tracks that spotlights the fine counterpoint and rapport that these two players have developed over the past several years.
A member of the Telarc roster since 2000, Green is regarded as one of the young lions on the current piano jazz scene. While still in his teens, he played with Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw, then solidified his reputation in the 1980s via gigs with Betty Carter and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He spent the following decade balancing his time between leading his own trio and playing in the Ray Brown Trio.
Russell Malone—a seemingly omnipresent jazz sideman and session player over the past several years—has been Green’s creative and collaborative partner on almost every album that Green has released since the late 1990s. Kaleidoscope (1997) and These Are Soulful Days (1999), Green’s last two albums on Blue Note, both featured Malone prominently. Malone joined Green again on Naturally, Green’s Telarc debut in 2000.
bluebird brings these two highly successful creative partners together again, with results that are satisfyingly consistent with their well-established collaborative track record.
“Reunion Blues,” originally penned by Milt Jackson and vigorously rendered here, is the appropriate opener for this reconvening of two friends. Cole Porter’s “It’s Alright with Me” is equally energetic, with Green and Malone moving in a tight formation at high speed, yet giving each other plenty of room to breathe at various points along the way. The duo revisits the Cole Porter songbook a few tracks later with an upbeat and playful reading of the classic “Love For Sale.”
Also in the mix is an easygoing rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” and the finely crafted title track that captures much of Charlie Parker’s original understated energy and showcases both players’ formidable solo chops. Likewise, “Where Is the Love,” the well-known pop ballad from the 1970s, takes on a decidedly mellow dimension with some slow-moving but nonetheless stirring piano-guitar counterpoint. The set closes with Green’s tip of the hat to the preceding generation—a midtempo reading of Oscar Peterson’s “Wheatland.”
Balancing the best of original material and jazz standards, bluebird is the latest chapter in a rapidly growing body of work by a piano-guitar duo that’s making an indelible mark in the jazz scene.