The Kennedy Center

Russell Malone

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    Derek Gordon discusses Benny Green and Russell Malone's performance at the KC Jazz Club


Guitarist Russell Malone, born in 1963 in Albany, Georgia, is a virtuoso whose broad playing range includes everything from down-home, gut-bucket blues to lush, melodic ballads. He was first exposed to music in church where a wide range of instruments, from drums, tambourines, and even washboards, were used to make music. Before he reached the age of five his mother bought him a toy guitar--a green plastic four-string"--and he began copying the church players.

A major turning point came when he saw B.B. King play "How Blue Can You Get" on the popular ‘70's TV show Sanford and Son. After seeing Chet Atkins, Kenny Burrell, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, B.B. King, and George Benson perform on television, he developed an interest in blues and country music but ultimately chose jazz. Mr. Malone taught himself to play by sitting next to the record player and playing along with the recordings.

Mr. Malone, who credits such artists as vocalist Freddy Cole and pianist Billy Taylor for invaluable mentoring and advice, has toured internationally with Diana Krall, receiving critical acclaim in his role as her right hand both in concert and on the CDs All For You and Love Scenes, her two Grammy-nominated albums. He played a prominent part in Benny Green's 1997 recording, Kaleidoscope, and participated in the launch of the release on a brief U.S. tour with Benny Green's quintet. He toured for two years with master jazz organist, Jimmy Smith (1988-90) and then became part of Harry Connick Jr.'s orchestra for more than four years (1990-94).  He has appeared at festivals, in clubs and concert halls, and recorded with artists including Clarence Carter, Little Anthony, Peabo Bryson, Mulgrew Miller, The Winans, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jack McDuff, Junior Manz, Roy Hargrove, Christian McBride, Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, Billy Taylor, and Gary Burton. Mr. Malone also performed in Robert Altman's 1996 movie Kansas City.

He made his recording debut as a leader in 1992 with his self-titled CD Russell Malone and a year later recorded the disc Black Butterfly (both on Columbia). Other recordings include 1998's Sweet Georgia Peach and 2000's Look Who's Here (both on Impulse-Universal) and Heartstrings (Verve, 2001) and the great bassist Ray Brown's final recording Ray Brown, Monty Alexander and Russell Malone (Telarc, 2002). He also joined pianist Benny Green for the live recording Jazz at the Bistro (Telarc 2003).  Mr. Malone's latest recording as a leader is Playground (MaxJazz, 2004), featuring himself on guitar, pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist Tassili Bond, drummer E.J. Strickland, and guest artists Gary Bartz on alto saxophone and vibraphonist Joe Locke. 

Russell Malone brought his own quartet to the Terrace Theater on October 19, 2001 and returned to perform in the KC Jazz Club with Benny Green on February 8, 2003.

Last updated: March 1, 2007
Russell Malone