August 2021
A Star of Team Play
Tom ‘Bones’ Malone at this year’s Prescott Jazz Summit
Tom "Bones" Malone

It’s easy to overlook the musicians who don’t get the headlines or top album credits, working in the sections, writing the arrangements, showing up and doing star-level work for scale. At the Prescott Jazz Summit you’ll be able to meet a giant among working musicians.

The first time I heard of Tom ‘Bones’ Malone was in a shout-out from John Belushi on the first Blues Brothers album, Briefcase Full of Blues, in ‘78. Hearing that record (again and again) changed my thinking about what I wanted to do with my own music, and in the intervening years I’ve come to appreciate how much Malone had to do with shaping that album and so many more recordings through his arrangements and production, as well as his performances on many different instruments across a vast range of genres, venues and collaborations. His list of high-profile credits is immense and growing — just check Wikipedia.

For Malone, after over 50 years as a first-call performer and producer, taking a given gig is more personal now. “It’s all about who I’m playing with onstage,” he says, and this year’s Prescott Jazz Summit will bring together many old friends and colleagues. It was a personal connection that gave him the opportunity to come to Prescott as well. “Mike Vax has been a friend for many years, and he called me up and invited me to play;” the deal was done for his visit to Prescott.

Malone will be sharing the Summit stages with several old friends, including guitarist Jack Peterson, met during college days at North Texas State, fellow trombonist Scott Whitfield from Los Angeles, and Arkansas-based Claude Askew, “one of the best big-band drummers I’ve ever worked with.” He says he’s much looking forward to the weekend festival, which will include free, open workshops with the marquee musicians.

With the rise of online distribution and other structural changes, the recording industry has lost much of its power as an income stream for musicians, and live performance, including in smaller cities and venues, has gained importance.

But opportunities to play have been very thin for all musicians since the pandemic hit. Malone has kept busy over the past year and a half doing remote-production projects all over the world and building recordings of his own “one-man big band,” for which he plays nearly all the parts in his home studio. (You can hear those recordings at

The festival is a great opportunity for both jazz fans and musicians to meet and share the love of music in intimate venues. Day and weekend passes are available online at or at the Prescott Chamber of Commerce offices, 117 W Goodwin St.

Steven Ayres is a working musician and Editor of 5enses.

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