It would be nice to say that Ray Brown's final recording session before his sudden and untimely death in the summer of 2002 resulted in a masterpiece, but although this trio session with guitarist Russell Malone and pianist Monty Alexander is perfectly serviceable, a masterpiece it is not. It's a very attractive album -- Brown was probably not capable of producing anything less as a leader -- but it suffers just a bit from Alexander's slightly sugary style and from the lack of a drummer. Recording without a drummer had been the latest thing in the jazz world for several years when this album was released, but it's not entirely clear what the benefit of such an arrangement was supposed to be. On this album, the swing standard "Fly Me to the Moon" and Dexter Gordon
's boppish "Dexter's Dex" would have had much more oomph with a sympathetic drummer on board (though on the latter, Malone's Django Reinhardt
-styled backup and Brown's inimitable freight train rhythmic drive do go some distance toward making up for that lack). And the midtempo numbers seem to plod just a bit as well. But as always, there's no questioning either the inventiveness of Brown's solos or the rich sumptuousness of his enormous tone. Early pressings of this album include a bonus disc of tracks culled from Brown's Telarc catalog, and perhaps somewhat ironically, it is this disc that ends up being the more fully satisfying of the two.