Russell Malone: The Odd Couple


The Odd Couple


Russell Malone (guitar)


Look Who's Here (Verve 314-543-543-2)

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Russell Malone (guitar),

Anthony Wonsey (piano), Richie Goods (bass), Byron Landham (drums)


Composed by Neal Hefti


Recorded: New York, May 3-5, 1999


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

Russell Malone's early Columbia and Verve releases, with their occasional vocals, attempted to position him as the next George Benson. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and the flashy, versatile guitarist has focused on his hollow-bodied instrument ever since.

When Neal Hefti passed away on October 11, 2008, obituaries headlined his having written the theme songs for Batman and The Odd Couple, rather than his composing and arranging accomplishments for Woody Herman and Count Basie. Yet as Malone shows in this sinuous interpretation of "The Odd Couple," the overexposed tune can still hold up quite well as a serious vehicle for improvisation in a straight jazz context. Malone, with his thick, warm tone, delineates the bouncy theme as Wonsey feeds him simpatico chords before the guitarist enters his long and imposing solo. Malone effectively alternates ringing, stretched high notes with echoing lower-register jabs. His trademark fleet staccato runs and country blues inflections are magnetizing. At the end of his solo, he toys creatively with a chord progression based on the opening notes of the melody. Wonsey's assured, flowing improv adds to the impact of this definitive treatment of Hefti's song.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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