Nick Russo + 11: Ro

For a guy with a book of Metallica transcriptions under his belt, Nick Russo of Queens cultivates a wonderfully pure jazz tone on his self-released album Ro. The nine-track, all-original set boasts an impressive cast, including Mark Turner on tenor, Matt Clohesy and Nathan Peck on bass, Ari Hoenig and Willard Dyson on drums, Miles Griffith on vocals and the exceptional Art Hirahara on piano and Rhodes. Russo studies Indian rhythm with tabla master Samir Chatterjee, who appears as a guest on “Mitzvah” and the vamp-based finale “Please Come Home.” Griffith contributes divinely wacky scat solos on the title track and “Mitzvah” as well. He doubles the Indian-influenced cyclical melody of “Little Hands” with Russo’s tenor banjo, which in this setting sounds much like a sitar.

A fluid straightahead player with a globalist outlook, Russo leads off with the hard-swinging tempo shifts of “Triggered” and the Rosenwinkel-ish 7/8 of “Moy Zaichick.” He switches to acoustic guitar for the bossa nova “Dinda” and also “Please Come Home,” opening the latter with a swirl of ambient effects. His grasp of the blues is strong on “Mmm,” where he matches wits with trumpeter Greg Glassman (who also appears on the mellow, offbeat “Untitled”).

David R. Adler

David R. Adler writes about jazz and assorted topics. His work has appeared in JazzTimes, NPR Music, WBGO.org, The Philadelphia InquirerThe Village Voice, DownBeat, Time Out New York, and many other publications. From 2010-2017 he taught jazz history at the Aaron Copland School of Music (Queens College-CUNY). In summer 2017, after 30 years in New York (apart from two in Philadelphia), David relocated with his family to Athens, Georgia. There he continues to write about music and perform solo as a guitarist/vocalist.