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Ray Brown/Monty Alexander/Russell Malone: Ray Brown/Monty Alexander/Russell Malone

The late bassist Ray Brown’s last recording is in the spirit of the Oscar Peterson Trio and of the group that inspired it, the Nat “King” Cole Trio. The music is centered in the Cole-Peterson tradition of good feeling, harmonic subtlety and rhythmic togetherness. Brown and guitarist Russell Malone achieve a seductive swing reminiscent not only of Brown’s with Herb Ellis in the Peterson trio, but, at times, also of Freddie Green’s with Walter Page in Count Basie’s band. Malone’s rhythm-guitar work is impressive. His solos indicate that he has reached a new level of consistency and clarity.

Following pianist Monty Alexander’s recent concentration on Caribbean idioms, interesting though they may be, it is good to hear him again in a straightahead setting. His piano work has always been based in great part on Nat Cole’s lyricism, touch and chord voicings, elements he long ago absorbed as he developed his own style. There is also a rich Peterson component in Alexander’s approach, as well as streak of whimsy that leads him to the strategic placement of quotes (a bit of “Filthy McNasty” in “Django,” for example). Along with Peterson and Gene Harris, he was one of Brown’s preferred pianists.

The CD includes the classics “Honeysuckle Rose,” Brown’s “Blues for Junior,” “I Can’t See for Looking” (indelibly associated with Cole) and originals by all three musicians. Brown’s playing a few months before his death was undiminished in tone, perfection of note choice and, above all, swing. He elevates every performance with the strength and joy of his time, whether soloing or walking behind Malone and Alexander.

Included with the first pressing of the CD is a limited-edition bonus disc with selections from many of Brown’s previous albums for Telarc. Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, Russell Malone is a splendid ending to a recording career of more than half a century. It is also final evidence, if more was needed, of Brown’s primacy among bassists.

Originally Published