Review Summary: Comfort.
Some of my favorite memories as a young adult were based around relaxing in a coffeehouse. That may sound really boring when I put it out like that, but there was a lot of homely comfort in just sitting at the table with a hot (or cold) cup of joe and listening to music. There was a genuine warmth
when briefly inhabiting this safe haven shrouded in the thick aroma of morning and rejuvenation. The plan was simple every time: go to the cafe, get a cup of coffee, put on the headphones, and discover new music that was just a click away (the convenience of modern streaming services still astounds me). Whether I was listening to the calmest of new age or the most ear-shattering death metal, that one word kept creeping back into mind: warmth
. The warmth of reassurance; the warmth of a day that could truly be considered inviting; the warmth of a loving family circle. But when I left my home state behind, it was always hard to replicate that feeling of home and that feeling of winding down with a good coffee. That is, until Sweet Georgia Peach
One click, and the memories are reeling back like a rose-colored montage. One listen to that guitar and I get the feeling that Russell Malone has nurtured his craft as if it were his own child, wrapped in the finest of cloth and given the finest home his money can buy. This is jazz with the kind of sentimental touch you’d give to a highly personal folk record, furnished with the immense level of skill and precision you’d bring to a progressive rock piece. But that guitar, between the tone and the touch Malone has on it, gives this man such a history. I feel like I’ve known him for years, even though I’ve never met him. Just listen to the opening to “Strange Little Smile/Born Again”; it’s as if the solo guitar cascades are simulating the falling of autumn leaves, the instrument itself telling the story without any vocal input from the man behind the curtain. He can still be cheeky and energetic, as the following title track immediately shifts gears and brings us a more playful side to his work. This is also brought out in the bizarrely atonal chords of opener “Mugshot,” which gleefully sandwich each smooth jazz fusion palate-cleanser. Some cuts manage to strike a strong balance, such as the unique classical/jazz blend of the piano and guitar-dominated “Bright Mississippi” or the 7-minute multi-tempo fusion/bop synthesis of “Mean What You Say.” Sweet Georgia Peach
does work on many levels, but it’s the air of warm familiarity that always has me returning to its addictive solos and gorgeous arrangements. It sounds like the first moment I ever set foot in that old coffeehouse, the establishment willing to accept me and give me a good shot of caffeine while the seat cushions push me further into my carefree state of ease. The energetic moments are caffeine to the ears, and the moments of delicate balladry bring me back to my origins. Sweet Georgia Peach
is my personal space, and I feel right at home.