Sunday, February 16, 2014

Catherine Russell Brings it Back

The emergence of Catherine Russell on the music stage in the past few years has provided lenity of magical listening. Daughter of legendary band leader Luis Russell and bassist-guitarist-singer Carline Ray, Catherine Russell delights with her revival of classic and less-known swing and blues tunes. Her latest album, Bring It Back on Jazz Village, continues in this vein with her superb singing backed by a little big band rooted in swing with some gypsy jazz accents. 

The new album brings her back with the creative team from her last album Simply Romancin’, that earned the Grand Prix du Hot Club de France. Among those supporting Ms. Russell are guitarist Matt Munisteri, pianist Mark Shane, bassist Lee Hudson, drummer Mark MacLean, tenor saxophonist and arranger Andy Farber, trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, saxophonist Dan Block, trombonist John Allred and baritone saxophonist Mark Lopeman. And what a terrific team on a wonderful collection of songs ranging from the title track, a Peppermint Harris composition recorded by Wyonnie Harris, Duke Ellington’s I Let a Song Out Of My Heart, Johnny Otis and Preston Love’s Aged and Mellow, that Esther Phillips waxed, Public Melody One, which Louis Armstrong recorded for Decca with a big band led by Russell's late dad. There is also a previously unrecorded song by her father, Lucille, that was written for Louis Armstrong’s wife.

And the music is simply top-rate with Russell’s horn-like phrasing, her warmth, joy and intonation superb throughout whether strutting on The Darktown Strutters’ Ball, reflective on Aged and Mellow (which is how she wants her men, just like she wants her whisky). She can be sassy on the title track, moody on After The Lights Go Down Low, and getting the jitterbuggers out on the floor singing Ida Cox’s You Got to Swing and Sway. She sings with the exuberance of Helen Humes and the nuance of Lavern Baker. Then there are booting sax solos, growling trumpets, marvelous piano from boogie to deep swing, guitarist Munisteri jazzy electric blues playing on the title track as well as his deft acoustic chording elsewhere. One also notes the wonderful arrangements with touches of Ellington and other classic big bands. 

The only reason I would be hesitant in describing this as her best recording because her other recordings have also been so marvelous, but Bring It Back is one of the finest vocal recordings I have heard in the past few months. Its an outstanding recording that retains its pleasures with repeated hearings. Catherine Russell not simply brings back, but reinvigorates, some familiar classics and lesser known gems from the blues and swing worlds. 

I received my copy from a publicist. Here is Public Melody One.

No comments: