Q&A: Russell Malone
The great guitarist answers a handful of our questions in the Q&A.
How or when did you first “discover” jazz?
I saw George Benson perform on television when I was 12. He was performing with (and I didn’t know who these guys were at the time) Benny Goodman, Red Norvo, Papa Joe Jones, Milt Hinton and Teddy Wilson. That was my first exposure to jazz.
Do you remember the first recording you ever purchased (jazz or otherwise)?
The George Benson Cookbook
Name one of your greatest creative influences and why?
Chet Atkins because of his versatility. He could fit in any musical situation and play with honesty and conviction and those are my favorite types of musicians, those who are open to different types.
What made you decide to become a musician?
The first music I heard when I was growing up was the music in my church. There was a gentleman who played the guitar in my church and I was fascinated by what he played, but even more so than that, the way people responded to what he played. It has always fascinated me to see how people respond emotionally to music. You can trigger so many different emotions in people when you play, and it is one of the main things that excites me about music. Plus, it makes me feel good.
Name one jazz recording that you cannot live without.
If I had to narrow it down to one, I guess it would be The Piano Starts Here by Art Tatum.
What is the best thing about playing jazz?
I think the best thing about playing music is first of all, I get paid to do something that I love. As I mentioned before, being able to channel into people’s emotions is a good thing and being able to express my feelings – things that I may not be able to verbalize, I can say through my instrument. Also, I get to see the world and meet all different types of people, try different kinds of food and experience new things constantly. Finally, I get the chance to play with a lot of interesting musicians and learn something. There is always something to learn…the paint never dries.
What are listening to right now?
High Blues Pressure by Freddie Hubbard.
What is your favorite escape?
I love to go to the movies when I am home. I also like to cook.