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Dynamics of a singularly gifted duo

Benny Green and Russell Malone connect in an electric fusing of complementary styles.

February 28, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

There are a lot of metaphors associated with the way people experience jazz. In one, the interplay between the members of a jazz quintet parallels the quick-paced interaction of a basketball team. Then there's the often-heard description of the big band as the symphony orchestra of jazz.

Yet another emphasizes the intimate communication of jazz, the spontaneous "musical conversations" between improvising players. And it was this metaphor that was in full-blooded, real-world view Wednesday at the Jazz Bakery in a performance by the duo of pianist Benny Green and guitarist Russell Malone.

As in any intriguing conversation, the interplay of differences, of ideas tossed back and forth, examined and transformed, made for a fascinating listening experience. Green and Malone, born seven months apart in 1963, share a common generational perspective, but their careers have taken disparate paths. Green's dedication to Oscar Peterson-derived, bop-based swinging and Malone's Wes Montgomery references and gifted accompaniment skills meandered in and out of their musical dialogue, producing luminous results in a program ranging from "Stompin' at the Savoy" to the Muppets-associated "Sing."

Given their shared instrumental virtuosity, there were plenty of high-speed moments. But in this piece, as in others, their technique was countered by smaller attractions -- a brief passage drenched with mid-tempo swing, a tiny bit of contrapuntal interplay, a buoyant, all-together climax. Best of all, beyond the metaphors, the Malone and Green performance defined the pleasures of simply experiencing and sharing a musical tete-a-tete between two of the jazz world's most gifted contemporary artists.


Benny Green and Russell Malone

Where: The Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City

When: Tonight-Sunday, 8 and 9:30 p.m.

Price: $25

Contact: (310) 271-9039

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