Benny Green and Russell Malone 

Jazz at the Bistro (Telarc)

Why do jazz artists record so many live albums compared with other musicians? Most rock bands, folk singers and blues musicians crank out the occasional live recording to document the tour experience for hardcore fans, but a jazz musician with any longevity might release a half-dozen or more live albums during his or her career. Jazz scholars will tell you that at their best, live recordings capture the essence of jazz -- improvised solos that spur the musicians to higher levels of creativity. Record labels -- always focused on the bottom line -- factor in the lower costs of live recordings, especially for jazz albums, which have a comparatively limited potential market.

Whatever compelled Telarc to document Benny Green and Russell Malone in performance here in St. Louis last June, jazz fans will be pleased with the results -- pleased, that is, if they're into subtlety and nuance rather than hard-charging, high-energy riffs. A piano/guitar duo must generate a groove without the basic foundation of bass and drums, which automatically presents a major challenge: Who keeps the time? Fortunately, Green and Malone have the talent and technique to handle that dilemma -- and, because each is willing to give the other plenty of room in the spotlight, everything works out quite nicely. On their version of "Wabash," a burning bop tune written by Cannonball Adderley, Malone supplies an effective, funky bottom, using his guitar like a bass to support Green's up-tempo keyboard solo. Green returns the favor, slipping into a solid left-hand groove to accompany Malone's bluesy guitar solo. There's plenty of variety in terms of repertoire as well. The duo covers tunes by Monk and Coltrane, as well as classic ballads such as "Love Letters" and "When Lights Are Low." There's even a medley of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly" and the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love" during which Green creates intricately chorded variations on the Flack song, followed by Malone's jazzy reworking of the Bee Gees' disco standard.

A nod of thanks goes to Telarc for bringing in a top-of-the-line Direct Stream Digital system to record the Jazz at the Bistro performances. The sound quality is exceptional, capturing every note with precision and clarity.

We’re keeping you informed…
...and it’s what we love to do. From local politics and culture to national news that hits close to home, Riverfront Times has been keeping St. Louis informed for years.

It’s never been more important to support local news sources. A free press means accountability and a well-informed public, and we want to keep our unique and independent reporting available for many, many years to come.

If quality journalism is important to you, please consider a donation to Riverfront Times. Every reader contribution is valuable and so appreciated, and goes directly to support our coverage of critical issues and neighborhood culture. Thank you.

Speaking of...

More by Terry Perkins

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 1, 2020


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2020 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation