Ron Carter's Golden Striker Trio
(Ronnie Scott's, 20th August 2013. Second night of three. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
I was flicking through the 35-page guidance notes for an arts grants scheme yesterday afternoon. As you do. Phrases like 'great art' and 'experiences that enrich people’s lives' kept coming up. A few hours later I was listening to guitarist Russell Malone at Ronnie Scott's.
As in the video above, Malone didn't emerge from the shadows for a while, but when he did, it was something unforgettable, and it certainly enriched my life. This is music of warmth, connection, conversation, companionship, beauty, affection, expression from deep, coherent and simple lines, each one emerging in relation to what has gone before, balance, subtle voicings, a deep sense of swing and an infectious backbeat. Everywhere, in all three musicians' contributions to the whole, but above all in Russell Malone's feature Candle Light, all of these virtues were in abundance. Great art indeed.
The new participant - to me at least - was Nicaraguan-born pianist Donald Vega, who does not play on the same sheer scale as the late great Mulgrew Miller, is different again from Jacky Terrasson (above), and - as Mike Hobart points out in a good FT review - brings an interesting, new, Latin dimension to the trio. Ron Carter's presence, dominance, leadership from the bass are simply that "magnetic North" which we all look for, and which Spielberg portrayed so well in the dark expanses of the film Lincoln. You know it when you've seen it.
Support was Benet McLean, with a characterful Duncan Eagles on saxes, immaculate Max Luthert on bass and Mark Mondesir on drums. McLean's virtuoso homage to Art Tatum was just phenomenal. More please. And Mark Mondesir is as decisive, positive and characterful a drummer as can be heard anywhere. The shimmering delight of his two-cymbal roll, just before bringing the last number to an emphatic close, will stay in the mind.