Russell Malone and Benny Green

Live at IAJE 2003
Russell Malone and Benny Green

Toronto, Canada ­ January 8, 2003
by Matt Robinson

As side men for legends like Ray Brown and younger lions like Diana Krall and Harry Connick, Jr., pianist Benny Green and guitarist Russell Malone have been bridging generations and bringing new fans to Jazz for a number of years. Who better, then, to offer live version of their recent recorded release Live at the Bistro (Telarc) in front of an audience of hundreds of eager jazz students, teachers and fans at the 2003 conference for the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE)? And though the hall at the Metro Toronto Convention Center was long and broad, Green and Malone quickly overcame sonic dilemmas and brought the audience in with their delicate exchanges.

Opening with a complementary duet of “I Fell In Love with Love,” Green and Malone continued to fill in for each other throughout the set. A strenuous take on Wes Montgomery’s “Jingle” allowed Malone to pay tribute to his predecessors while a restive and open version of “A Bientot” served as a tip to Dr. Billy Taylor, who applauded appreciatively at the end of his composition. Though Malone said not a word, leaving the mic work to Green, his nimble runs were expressive and rich. And even when looking over his shoulder at his latest musical partner, Green’s attacks were precise and sharp.

Halting the flow of the performance, Green took a moment to thank local-born legend Oscar Peterson who, despite failing health, had also decided to grace the hall with his formidable presence. After a pair of solo ballads, Green introduced special guest drummer Ed Thigpen who accented to closing blues with his subtle swing and impeccable percussive timing. Though the age difference was considerable, Thigpen worked well with the talented young men, helping them to bring old and young together both on stage and off.

©2003 M. S. Robinson, ARR