Like jugglers pitching pins back and forth across a stage, guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Benny Green trade roles effortlessly throughout this duet set recorded over four nights last summer in St. Louis. When theyíre not racing step for step on an impossibly fast melody, as they do on Paul Chambersís "Tale of the Fingers," then one will hold down the chord changes while the other improvises.
Malone, a Jimmy Smith organ-combo and Diana Krall alum, has a warm, pure tone far removed from jagged John Scofield or æthereal Bill Frisell. He is easily the more dynamic of the pair here, and his solos shine brighter and dip deeper into the blues. Green, who boasts enviable technique and knowledge, has taken on an older and more sedate style since his burning days with Art Blakey and Betty Carter.
Although the duet setting does not lend itself to a lot of fireworks, we do get a stellar lesson in jazz alchemy. Like Maloneís best solos, the song list offers a number of surprises. One sequence goes from the Roberta Flack hit "Killing Me Softly" to the Bee Geesí "How Deep Is Your Love?", then to Billy Strayhornís delicate "The Intimacy of the Blues" and finally John Coltraneís "Momentís Notice/Lazy Bird."