Singer Catherine Russell covers a lot of jazz territory on her new CDperforming material from vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, New Orleans, Delta blues, the Swing Era and the Django-esque '30s. Accompanying her on this journey is a full battery of musicians that replicate the sounds of each of the styles covered: musical director Matt Munisteri (guitar and banjo), Mark Shane (piano), Lee Hudson (bass), Brian Grice (drums), Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), John Allred (trombone) and Dan Block (saxophone and clarinet) complete the basic group. Howard Johnson (tuba), Sara Caswell (violin) and Rachelle Garniez (accordion) join on some of the tracks, while bassist Neal Miner and drummer Rob Garcia substitute on several tracks each. But though this is a strong instrumental lineup, this CD is about the vocalist. The arrangements and instrumentation are designed to fit each individual song and style and showcase Russell's singing.
And Russell carries the ball from start to finish. She has a voice of many textures. She can be sassy, bluesy, provocative (as in Duke Ellington's "Long, Strong and Consecutive") and heart-rending (the Fats Waller title song and the song "Troubled Waters" recorded by Duke Ellington with Ivie Anderson's vocal). She can deliver ballads such as "As Long As I Live" and "November" with sincerity in rich tones. And she can take you down to New Orleans with "Struttin' With Some Barbeque." It's clear that Russell knows the history of each selection. She is emotionally tied to the lyrics (included in the CD insert), and sings with the passion of a Bessie Smith and the ease of an Ella Fitzgerald. There are also some notable instrumental moments on this CD: Shane's swinging work on "Quiet Whiskey" and Munisteri's lovely contribution on "Close Your Eyes."
Russell's CD release party, held at Dizzy's Club in March, 2010 where she appeared with most of the personnel on the CD and sang most of the selections, duplicated the feeling of the album. The only difference was Russell's authoritative stage presence. She took command of the bandstand immediately with the rousing "We The People" (a Waller-Razaf Depression Era song whose message is "we the people gotta have music and song"), her effervescent personality connecting immediately with her audience. Her enjoyment level and that of her band was totally apparent and completely contagious.
Inside This Heart Of Mine; All The Cats Join In; We The People; Troubled Waters; As Long As I Live; November; Just Because You Can; Long, Strong and Consecutive; Close Your Eyes; Quiet Whiskey; Spoonful; Slow As Molasses; Struttin' With Some Barbeque.
Catherine Russell: vocals; Mark Shane: piano; Matt Munisteri: guitar, banjo; Lee Hudson: acoustic bass; Neal Miner: acoustic bass (tracks 6,7); Brian Grice: drums; Rob Garcia: drums (tracks 11.12)' Jon-Erik Kellson: trumpet; John Allred: trombone; Dan Block: saxophone, clarinet; Howard Johnson: tuba (tracks 11.12); Sara Caswell: violin (tracks 6,7); Rachelle Garniez: accordion (track 9).