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Bebop - Released March 18, 2016 | HighNote Records

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Guitarist Russell Malone has always been a highly lyrical, melodic soloist and he spotlights this talent with his 2016 studio effort, All About Melody. Following up his similar small group album, 2015's Love Looks Good on You, All About Melody is a swinging, soulful, laid-back production showcasing Malone's knack for deftly delivered straight-ahead jazz. Joining Malone once again is his longtime working rhythm section of pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Luke Sellick, and drummer Willie Jones III. Together, this quartet makes supple, warm-toned instrumental music in which each player is totally jacked in, intrinsically working to complement the overall happy group vibe. With his big, hollow-body electric guitar, largely unadorned natural tone, and fluid, bop-inflected lines, Malone sounds positively exuberant here. To these ends, he revisits Freddie Hubbard's "On the Real Side," a groove-oriented number he first played on the trumpeter's last studio album. He then continues to pay homage to another of his stylistic inspirations, the late guitarist Jim Hall, with the hushed original "Message to Jim Hall." Poignantly, the track is followed by an actual phone message Hall left for Malone. Elsewhere, Malone keeps things vibrant and romantic with a sweet, unaccompanied take on "When a Man Loves a Woman," and equally amorous, afterglow-illuminated version of "Saving All My Love for You." However, it's not all candlelight and wine. Malone dances through Sonny Rollins' calypso "Nice Lady," and turns up the noise for a frenetic, funky take on Bill Lee's "Biskit." Ultimately, whether he's slipping into an intimate ballad or launching into a swaggering soul-jazz freakout, Malone keeps listeners hanging onto his melodies. ~ Matt Collar
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Bebop - Released July 14, 2017 | HighNote Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2001 | Impulse!

The example of Wes Montgomery is so ingrained into the jazz-guitar culture that sooner or later, everyone wants a crack at playing with a string section. Not everyone gets that opportunity, but when you're signed to a major label with an aficionado of plush settings like Tommy LiPuma in charge, your chances of making a string album are going to be pretty good. Thus the Russell Malone string album, a relaxed, easygoing, midnight-hour set of ten tracks polished to a fare-thee-well by a coterie of pros who seem bent upon adding another album by a surrogate Montgomery to the Verve catalog. How do you know that Malone had Montgomery on the brain? Just listen to the first notes of the Milt Jackson title track that opens the album; it's exactly the same riff that led off Montgomery's Bumpin' album. Stylistically, though, Malone is his own man, playing with one basic mellow, somewhat slender tone, resisting the temptation to indulge in the great one's patented octaves. The string charts, whether penned by Johnny Mandel, Alan Broadbent, or Dori Caymmi -- expert stringmen all -- tend to sound the same, laying on a glossy, sophisticated, muted carpet while thankfully not trying to fill every space and corner of the sound stage. It would be hard to assemble a more distinguished rhythm section in 2001 -- pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts -- than this one, but they're just around to keep things rolling steadily. Malone does an especially beautiful job with "Why Try to Change Me Now" -- and there is one tune of his own, "Loved Ones," that fits seamlessly into the pattern. Yet for all of his gifts, Malone doesn't deliver the heartstopping flashes of inspired improvised melody that made the Montgomery orchestral albums so ceaselessly listenable over the decades. That's the crucial ingredient that Montgomery took with him to the grave. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released April 1, 1993 | Columbia - Legacy

"...[Malone's] own writing introduces a rhythmically daring and harmonically daunting composer, in a mode best described as late Blue Note....Malone's got a signature sound waiting to be born if he continues to develop his compositional base...."
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Jazz - Released January 25, 2016 | MAXJAZZ

Russell Malone refuses to be pigeonholed into one category as a player, composer, or arranger on this outstanding CD, the first release led by a guitarist for the Maxjazz label. With a powerful group supporting, including pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist Tassili Bond, and drummer E.J. Strickland, Malone is clearly at the top of his game. "Blues for Mulgrew" is built from a fairly simple blues riff, though it explodes into a complex post-bop vehicle with Bejerano either following Malone or playing in unison with him in a piece that almost borders on avant-garde. Equally explosive is his well-named "Sugar Buzz," a rapid-fire piece that adds guest Joe Locke on vibes. The strutting "Mandela," which almost seems to chant the word "freedom," features the soulful alto sax of Gary Bartz. Malone's lyrical treatment of Billy Strayhorn's "Something to Live For" is a gem, as are his solo interpretations of the overlooked chestnut "Remind Me" and a sparse but compelling "You've Got a Friend." The Carpenters' huge hit "We've Only Just Begun" can come off hackneyed in the wrong hands, but Malone's arrangement picks up the tempo and frees the rhythm section from just plodding along behind him, while he adds a humorous lick from Burt Bacharach's "Say a Little Prayer." An added bonus is a live performance of Malone's "Mugshot," accessible only through a CD-ROM, though the poor lighting gives the video portion a homemade rather than a professional look. ~ Ken Dryden
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Jazz - Released April 1, 2016 | MAXJAZZ

Russell Malone's Triple Play is a notable session because it mixes his infectious originals with a number of decades-old songs that have unjustly been overlooked. Superbly accompanied by bassist David Wong and drummer Montez Coleman, Malone kicks off with his breezy bossa nova "Honeybone," which blends in a funky flavor and a bit of the blues. Malone's easygoing ballad "Pecan Pie" is an engaging melody worthy of a tasty lyric, while he showcases Coleman in his funky "Sweet Georgia Peach." The guitarist uncovered several gems by earlier jazz artists, including the late John Hicks' hip bop vehicle "Mind Wine" and Oliver Nelson's early-'60s intricate "Butch and Butch," both of which the trio interprets with flair. Malone's excursions into forgotten standards include an intimate setting of Cole Porter's "Do I Love You" and a moving solo interpretation of Alex North's hit "Unchained Melody" (the latter which has been recorded many times but infrequently by jazz artists). All in All, Triple Play is an impressive outing by Russell Malone. ~ Ken Dryden
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Bebop - Released February 17, 2015 | HighNote Records

Russell Malone's 2015 effort, Love Looks Good on You, showcases more of the swinging, adroit jazz guitarist's sound. The album follows up his 2010 studio album, Triple Play, and marks his debut for the High Note label. Joining Malone here are pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Gerald Cannon, and drummer Willie Jones III. ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2000 | Verve

A Wes Montgomery for the new millennium, this flashy yet honest hollow body guitarist captures all the exuberance and intimacy of the legend in the '60s, but with a certain modern attitude that makes this contemporary rather than just retro jazz. He and his quartet (pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Richie Goods, drummer Byron Landham) swing hard and high on the staccato punches of "The Angle," then smooth out just a bit for the heavy swaying blues of "Look Who's Here" (both Malone Originals). Malone has an amazing chemistry with Wonsey in particular, as their unique call and response, melody and harmony interplay on an upbeat twist on "The Odd Couple" makes abundantly clear. The best kinds of jazz albums feature a healthy mix of hard grooving jam sessions with plenty of improvisation, along with a few more intimate treasures. While there's a tender intimacy between guitar and steady percussion on Stevie Wonder's romantic "You Will Know," Malone's gentlest graces are saved for the sweet and wistful turn on Lerner and Loewe's "The Heather on the Hill." Before long, however, he's moving to the up groover category on "An Affair to Remember," which finds a happy medium between the exciting madness of the first few tracks and the eloquence of the ballads. With capable young lions like Malone on the scene, traditional jazz will stay healthy through the first years of the new century. ~ Jonathan Widran
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Jazz - Released March 23, 2018 | Columbia - Legacy

Russell Malone's debut as a leader is a charming effort that ranges from swing to numbers in which Malone shows off his Wes Montgomery influence. Malone is not only heard with a fairly modern quartet comprised of pianist Donald Brown, bassist Robert Hurst III and drummer Yoron Israel, but also in a trio with the great veteran bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Shannon Powell (Malone and Hinton take "St. Louis Blues" as a duet). There are also two duets with pianist Harry Connick, Jr., including a surprising (and effective) vocal by Malone on "I Don't Know Enough About You." A very enjoyable effort with several other surprises along the way. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 25, 2016 | MAXJAZZ

Russell Malone's second CD for Maxjazz Live at Jazz Standard, Vol. 1 has a bit of a harder edge then Playground, his first session for the label. Well accompanied by pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist Tassili Bond and drummer Jonathan Blake on this live performances at the Jazz Standard, the guitarist focuses mostly on his challenging originals. "I Saw You Do It" is a marvelous example, an intricate, boundary stretching affair that is essentially a blues intermingled with post-bop and a touch of dissonance, while the breezy "Flirt" is more easygoing, built from a call and response pair of riffs that are developed into a full-fledged work. Malone's choice of Frank Rosolino's "Blue Daniel" may turn a few heads as he slowly transforms it from a jazz waltz setting into a cooking hard bop vehicle. He finally shares his lyrical side with a beautiful interpretation of Milt Jackson's "Heartstrings" that perfectly conveys its bittersweet message. Highly recommended. ~ Ken Dryden
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Jazz - Released January 25, 2016 | MAXJAZZ

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Universal Music Mexico

During part of the 1990s, Russell Malone put his solo career on the back burner as he toured the world as an important part of Diana Krall's trio. Since he was scheduled to break away from Krall at the end of 1998, the release of this solo album was a timely event. With a couple of exceptions, the emphasis here is on slower tempos and relaxed moods. There are no swing standards included other than "Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat," and only "Sweet Georgia Peach" (which is a bit funky) and Thelonious Monk's "Bright Mississippi" (based on the chords of "Sweet Georgia Brown") are taken at faster speeds. The latter, a Malone duet with pianist Kenny Barron, is easily this CD's high point. Of the repertoire, the guitarist contributed five of the ten numbers and is also heard exploring Thad Jones' "Mean What You Say," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and a couple of obscurities. Malone and Barron are joined by bassist Ron Carter and drummer Lewis Nash throughout the melodic, often melancholy, and generally wistful outing. Although it would have been better if there were more tempo variations and some heated selections, this is a tasteful effort, and Russell Malone does have a beautiful tone on his guitar. ~ Scott Yanow