Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

March/April 2015: Regina Carter

The Right Reverend Russell Malone: Minister of Swing

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Russell Malone is one of those guitarists that every young musician aspires to be like, because his level is as high as one could hope to achieve. His musical versatility on the guitar is remarkable, from blazing fast bebop lines to soulful R&B melodies, wailing blues licks to sensitive ballads. Every line he plays is a beautiful, musical expression, and there is certain playful quality that makes his music so exciting to listen to. His time is as solid as a rock, and his melodies are crystal clear and always memorable.

Malone has been playing guitar since he was only 4 years old when he received a toy guitar. In his home town of Albany, Georgia, he was exposed to different kinds of music, like gospel, country, and then later blues and jazz. Malone’s playing follows a legacy of great jazz guitarists such as Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery and George Benson. These influences shine through Malone’s playing, but at the same time, he always stays true to his own voice.

With a discography that spans from the early 90s to the present, Malone has had a remarkable career as a bandleader, and is a sought-after sideman. He has performed on four Grammy award-winning albums with the likes of Harry Connick Jr, Diana Krall, Branford Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, and has recorded and performed with Benny Green, Jimmy Smith, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter and many others. In addition to his work as a sideman, Malone tours extensively and has released 10 albums as a leader. My particular favourites are his two live recordings, Live at Jazz Standard, Volumes 1 and 2. These albums showcase Malone’s fearsome chops on the guitar, and also his deep lyricism as a soloist.

I have been looking forward to seeing Russell Malone for months, ever since I heard the announcement that he would be performing with pianist Cyrus Chestnut in the Asper Jazz Performances series. Like Malone, Chestnut shows a wide variety of influences, from gospel to blues to classical. He too has had a long and distinguished career as both as sideman—playing with Jon Hendricks, Terrance Blanchard, Wynton Marsalis, Donald Harrison and Betty Carter, and others—and as a bandleader, including touring and recording with our own Steve Kirby.

On March 7 and 8, Russell Malone and Cyrus Chestnut take over the stage, with Steve Kirby on bass and Quincy Davis on drums. They will pool their years of experience and incredible talent for an extraordinary musical collaboration. This concert is one you won’t want to miss!

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