A dazzling sense of fluency and imagination dominate any performance by Russell Malone. In his week long Lincoln Center turn at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the guitarist leaned heavily on a group of original compositions that put the accent on crisply tailored fast blues that were generously layered with boldly chopping riffs and expansive single line ideas.
“He Said What?” and “Flirt” gave rise to the Malone technique and flourish, the use of dynamics and the skillful ideas with which his writing is cunningly invested and structured. The numbers are featured on his MaxJazz CD “Live at Jazz Standard, Vol. 1.”
With another original called “Stormy,” he was given admirable support from his trio: Tassili Bond on bass, drummer Ulysses Owens, and pianist Martin Bejerano. The latter balances subtleties with explosively dancing chords and a hard-edged drive.
Malone confesses to unabashed affection for the great American songbook, crediting a former diva who advised him to treat a ballad like a kiss — “sweet, deep and slow.” This he did with an unaccompanied solo on Jerome Kern’s “Remind Me” that segued into a poetically embracing take on Cole Porter’s “Do I Love You?”
He confesses to a passion for digging deep into the past for the more rarely heard tunes, even acknowledging the Porter source as a song from the old Broadway tuner “DuBarry Was a Lady.” Malone displays an obvious appreciation for the melody line, and he embraces a tune with such enveloping warmth that one can almost hear the lyrics.
Even with a buoyant turn on Cy Coleman’s “Witchcraft,” Malone could not resist a little quote of “(Give Me) a Kiss to Build a Dream On.” It continued to provide a peek into the way his mind works and alertly leans toward those old and friendly familiar lines.
Closer was Malone’s racing “Sugar Buzz,” heightened by his steady pulse, focused drive and decided elegance.