Malone began playing at the age of four in his home of Albany, Georgia, with a toy guitar his mother had bought him, influenced by musicians such as B.B. King and The Dixie Hummingbirds. However, he cites that the most influential musical experience he had as a youth was "[At the age of twelve] seeing George Benson perform on television…with Benny Goodman." He learned technique from listening to recordings of Benson, Wes Montgomery, and Charlie Christian, among others.
Malone played with jazz organist Jimmy Smith from 1988—1990. He then joined the Harry Connick Jr. Big Band from 1989-1994. In 1995, Malone became part of the Diana Krall trio, participating in three Grammy-nominated albums, the final one in 1999, "When I Look In Your Eyes," winning Best Vocal Jazz Performance. Malone was part of jazz pianist Benny Green's recordings in the late 1990's and 2000: "Kaleidoscope" (1997), "These Are Soulful Days" (1999), and "Naturally" (2000). The two formed a duo partnership, releasing the live recording, "Jazz At The Bistro" in 2003, and the studio recording "Bluebird" in 2004. The duo toured until 2007.
Malone tours regularly as leader of The Russell Malone Quartet, and more recently in support of "Triple Play" (2010) of the Russell Malone Trio. Often touring the US, Canada, Japan, and Europe, he can be seen in appearances with Dianne Reeves and Romero Lubambo and tours frequently with legendary bassist Ron Carter as part of the Golden Striker Trio often featuring Mulgrew Miller at piano. Other special guest appearances have included Malone with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, pianist Hank Jones (in celebration of his 90th birthday). October, 2008, found Russell Malone in duo at Yoshi's in Oakland, California, with fellow jazz guitarist and Grammy-winner Bill Frisell. The duo toured once again in February, 2009, in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, Malone became a member of the band for saxophonist Sonny Rollins, (celebrating his 80th birthday in September).
Recorded live on September 9-11, 2005, at Jazz Standard, NYC, MAXJAZZ released "Live At Jazz Standard, Volume One" (2006) and "Live At Jazz Standard, Volume Two" (2007). Appearing on these two volumes, and touring as The Russell Malone Quartet, are Martin Bejerano on piano, Tassili Bond on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums. Malone's 2010 recording "Triple Play" (also on MAXJAZZ) is pianoless, featuring David Wong on bass, and Montez Coleman on drums.