Transcendent Old-School Jazz & Blues
With her sixth album, 2016’s Harlem On My Mind, vocalist Catherine Russell journeys to the blue heart of the great African American songbook. Swinging forth with soulful interpretations, Russell taps the golden age of Harlem, as befits this vibrant daughter of jazz. Vocalists Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Dinah Washington provide inspiration where tunesmiths like Benny Carter, Irving Berlin, Andy Razaf and Fats Waller once ruled the roost of a renaissance which continues to reverberate. Of the title track, Russell says, “It’s about not forgetting your roots,” which also serves as her modus operandi for the entire collection. “The album is comprised of songs from artists who played at The Apollo in Harlem, where all African American artists of note appeared.”
Russell is a native New Yorker, born into musical royalty. Her father, the late Luis Russell, was a legendary pianist/composer/bandleader and Louis Armstrong’s long-time musical director. Her mother, Carline Ray, was a pioneering vocalist/guitarist/bassist who performed with International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Mary Lou Williams, and Sy Oliver. Russell notes, “My mother was born and raised in Harlem and my father led one of the leading orchestras in Harlem, which was part of the inspiration for this album.”
Russell’s professional life began early. After graduating with honors from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she embarked upon musical adventures with Carrie Smith, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Michael Feinstein, Levon Helm, and Rosanne Cash, among others. Russell’s recordings have won Grammy awards, reached #1 on JazzWeek and iTunes jazz charts, been awarded by the French Jazz Academy, and gotten five-star reviews in Downbeat.
2016 was an eventful year for Catherine Russell. In January, Russell was featured in an hour-long concert performance on Public Television’s American Songbook as part of the NJPAC series. In February, Russell joined the fellow members of David Bowie’s last touring band, as well as pop-singer Lorde, for a moving Tribute to David Bowie at the 2016 Brit Awards. In April, Russell appeared at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to sing the grand finale at the 2016 NEA Jazz Masters Award Ceremony, and then traveled to Los Angeles for a live taping of Radio Deluxe with John Pizzarelli. Extensive worldwide touring is slated for the 2016-17 season, including a tour in December 2016 as guest vocalist with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on their annual Big Band Holidays tour.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“It’s a delight to hear the real thing in Catherine Russell” -Wall Street Journal
“She is a fresh and original voice. The most exciting debut album I’ve heard in a long time.” -New York Sun