Written by Becca Pulliam from National Public Radio
Named the JJA Guitarist of the Year in June 2011, Russell Malone hails from Albany, Geo. Malone grew up absorbing music from his bedrock, the church, as well as popular blues and country tunes on radio and TV. For his golden-toned melodies played in octaves (try that some time!) and more, Malone is heavily influenced by Wes Montgomery.
Malone earned his stripes as an up-and-comer with the ferocious organist Jimmy Smith, then made his solo debut on Columbia Records in 1992. He worked in combos with pianists Benny Green and Diana Krall, as well as the fabulous Ray Brown toward the end of the bassist’s life. Malone is a longtime member of bassist Ron Carter‘s Golden Striker Trio, and as recently as 2011, he’s been a member of Sonny Rollins‘ band. In other words, Malone is an A-list player.
All the while, Malone has been following in the footsteps of two of his heroes: Montgomery and George Benson, guitarists with great technical skill who communicate with their audiences. For Malone, engaging the listener is of utmost importance. He wants to make you feel good.
Triple Play is his latest recording, and the first with his guitar trio. The guitarist lets the music breathe into his full, round, rich tone, and uses his amazing chops to serve the songs. The uptempo tunes swing and the ballads melt — Malone says the ballads are “where I live,” after all.
Personnel: Russell Malone, guitar; Tassili Bond, bass; Darrell Green, drums.