While it may have been about 104 degrees outside for the beginning of the Labor Day weekend, it was even hotter inside the Blue Whale, as guitarist Russell Malone turned up the Butanes and scorched the club with incendiary swinging material from his latest album, Time For Dancers.
Leading a symbiotic team of Willie Jones III/dr, Rick Germanson/p and Luke Sellick/b, Malone was a Bunsen Burner on the strings during as he picked and strummed over the lyrical “Soul Leo” and bopped with Jones’ snappy and crisp drumming on Cedar Walton’s “The Rubber Man.” Leading from the front, side and behind, Malone directed the bands traffic, strumming off mic to feed red meat to Sellick’s bopping bass solo.
On the more sensitive side, his trio intro to “The Ballad of Hank Crawford” had him make the strings bend and cry in bluesy emotion, while his delicate fingers treated the strings on “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” with the care of a bonsai gardener. He softly touched and tapped the notes for a recitative of Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes” before segueing into the silhouetted “Sophisticated Lady” as Jones’ brushes and Germanson’s piano waxed eloquence.
Malone then popped the clutch into overdrive as he did some breakout open field running on the rollicking “Little B’s Poem.” Germanson galloped as Sellick and Jones rode the whip, and Malone’s solo contained a history of his influences, from spirituals to bop, blues and field hollars, but it all melded into his own personal delivery.
Closing with the hipper than Dumbo “Suite Sioux, ” Malone had his guitar preach from the pulpit while Jones III gave the “Amens” with drums ricocheting throughout the club. All throughout the exciting set, Malone and company showed why, whether in support of the likes of Connick or Krall, or out on their own, they are more sleek than the fins of a ’61 Caddy, and just as sharp!