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[whitespace] Good Times Soul

Jazz musician Russell Malone finds many ways to hit the right note

By Marianne Messina

WHEN YOU GREET RUSSELL MALONE with "what are you up to?" you're likely to get: "looking for that right note." From age five, Malone's had his "ear to the ground," as he puts it, gobbling up musical idioms--he's been compared to both George Benson and Prince. But the Native Georgian explains that growing up on church music made him especially embrace B.B. King. "I first saw B.B. King when I was 9 years old."

Twenty-five years later, having played with Roy Hargrove and Branford Marsalis, toured with Harry Connick, Jr., and having even appeared in a jazz-themed movie, Robert Altman's Kansas City, (ostensibly smoking an unlit cigar), Malone got the chance to record with B.B. King on Let the Good Times Roll. "It took me like a month to let that whole experience sink in. It was so surreal," Malone recalls. "There are just certain intangible qualities," he says of the great players, "that they're going to take to their graves . . . These guys get up there and play their souls."

Recently, Malone shared a stage with another inspirational force, Ray Brown. "There's nothing like being on the bandstand next to him and feeling that power. I wish every musician would get to play with Ray Brown at least once. It gave me goose bumps."

For these great moments, Malone thanks the fact that he "studied the music," from Wes Montgomery to Thelonius Monk. "When I hear a player play, I always like to hear the history."

Malone's maturation is marked by a nice blend of soul and history. Both Sweet Georgia Peach (1998) and Look Who's Here (2000) bring out Malone's own compositions. "With each record, I can hear more of myself," Malone says. "I think my judgement is better. I'm becoming more daring in my improvisation." His stylized "Alfie" (Look Who's Here), showcases that maturity in cool, delicate twists of solo.

Russell Malone plays on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 8 and 10pm at Club Ibex, 55 South Market St, San Jose. Tickets are $15. (408.288.7557).

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From the October 19-25, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. MetroActive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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