Written by Grant Jackson from National Public Radio
Malone was born in Albany, Ga., where he was raised on the music of the church and also picked up blues and country tunes he’d heard on radio and TV. He discovered jazz guitar upon seeing a TV performance by George Benson with Benny Goodman‘s band. A largely self-taught player, Malone honed his jazz chops by listening to recordings of the guitar canon: Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Benson and others.
After sitting in with — and getting schooled by — jazz organ giant Jimmy Smith one night in Atlanta, Malone soon joined his group from 1988 to 1990. Following that job, Malone joined the Harry Connick Jr. Big Band and then played on three Grammy-nominated albums with vocalist and pianist Diana Krall.
Malone currently tours and records with his Russell Malone Quartet and Russell Malone Trio. He is a member of the Golden Striker Trio with bassist Ron Carter and pianist Mulgrew Miller, and has also worked with Benny Green, Ray Brown, Bobby Hutcherson, Bill Frisell, Shirley Horn and Natalie Cole, and recently toured with Sonny Rollins. A versatile player outside of jazz, Malone has performed alongside Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, B.B. King and Christina Aguilera.
Russell Malone was named Guitarist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2011. His latest recording is Triple Play.
Originally broadcast Feb. 2, 2002.