Guitarist RUSSELL MALONE was born on November 8, 1963 in Albany, Georgia. His first exposure to music was through his church. “The music was not sophisticated, but there was so much spirit!” he explains. “They didn’t always have instruments either, mostly drums, tambourines, and a washboard with a coat hanger…people do not know what soul music is until they see those Church people singing.”
As guitars began to be incorporated into the church music, Russell found himself fascinated by it. Before he was five, his mother bought him a toy guitar and he began copying the church players. At ten, Russell developed an interest in the blues and country music after seeing such musicians as Chet Atkins, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, B.B. King and, especially, George Benson, perform on television. Ultimately, it was jazz that Russell chose to play. He became a self-taught player influenced by players such as B.B. King, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Kenny Burrell, and dozens of others whom he discovered through voracious research.
Russell first worked with master jazz organist Jimmy Smith in 1988, and between 1990 and 1994 toured with Harry Connick Jr. During the late nineties Malone toured internationally with Diana Krall, receiving critical acclaim for his role as Diana’s right hand both in concert and on her recordings. Russell has also shared the stage with artists of the caliber of Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Claude “Fiddler” Williams, Bucky Pizzarelli, Natalie Cole, Benny Green, Jack McDuff, John Hicks, Clarence Carter, Little Anthony, Freddie Cole, Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Barron, Roy Hargrove, Cyrus Chestnut, Roy Brown, and Patti Austin. Malone was also a featured performer in Robert Altman’s 1996 film Kansas City.
His first recordings as a leader were made for Columbia: Russell Malone (1992), Black Butterfly (1993), and Wholly Cats (1994). Later, he joined the Verve Music Group and has recorded three albums for them, including Sweet Georgia Peach (1998), Look Who’s Here! (2000), and Heartstrings (2001). Russell also has a stellar career as a sideman. He played a very important role in Diana Krall’s first recordings, the Grammy-nominated All For You and Love Scenes. Russell Malone has recorded with countless artists, including Harry Connick Jr., Branford Marsalis, Natalie Cole, Ray Brown, Don Braden, Dianne Reeves, and Etta Jones. Russell Malone’s debut CD on the Maxjazz label entitled Jazz at the Bistro was released in April 2004. This recording features Mr. Malone’s working quartet.