"…A versatile singer who evokes Bessie Smith one moment and Ruth Brown, Dinah Washington or Peggy Lee the next, she is capable of purring in a low register that is as warm as cognac, but she can also hit clarion high notes. What really makes her special, however, is not so much her technical gifts—it’s her innate sense of swing, mastery of phrasing and her actor’s ability to fully inhabit a song’s lyrics.
…On “Bring It Back,” a Wynonie Harris track from 1952, Russell sashayed to the languid big band blues, swinging her hips and throwing her body into the lyric: “I love you like you love me/ We make a real fine pair/ But ain’t nothin’ shakin’/ When the dawn starts breakin’/ With me over here and you over there.” In this number, as often during the evening, it was all about the tempo: slower than you might expect, generating a blues feel almost unknown in current popular music, but perhaps ripe for rediscovery. Tenor saxophonist Andy Farber and guitarist-musical director Matt Munisteri deepened the groove with solos based in the blues.
…Russell’s reading of Al Hibbler’s classic ballad of seduction “After The Lights Go Down Low” yielded her biggest ovation of the night, as she delivered a pleading, testifying, flat-out sexy performance that seemed to raise the temperature in the room by several degrees.
…It might be a pipe dream to think that we’re due for a revival of this kind of entertaining, soul-satisfying big band singing. The crowd at Dizzy’s certainly seemed to go wild for it. One can always dream.”
"…Jazz Age gems co-exist in stunning fashion with material associated with blues icons Esther Phillips Al Hibbler, Wynonie Harris and Little Willie John. On the one hand, the songs have the sound of an early 20th-century orchestra; on the other hand, Russell brings to each work not only a reverence for the past masters, but a modern energy and sense of discovery. It’s an unbeatable combination of swing, blues, and storytelling.
Russell opens with the swinging blues title track which also features some finger-flying guitar from Matt Munisteri. Written by the “Uncrowned Queen of the Blues” Ida Cox, “You Got to Swing and Sway” features Jon-Erik Kellso’s muted trumpet and arrangement and Russell keeping pace with that “red hot rhythm.” Catherine and the band scorch with more hot blues on “I’m Sticking to You Baby,” maybe the most searing version since Little Willie John’s. Perhaps the track that best shows off Russell’s ability to tell a sultry blue tale while seductively swinging all the way is Johnny Otis’ “Aged and Mellow” — you’ll be torn between dancing and simply listening to Catherine and her perfect-fit band, featuring Mark Shane’s piano and Russell’s horn arrangements. “After the Lights Go Down Low” was a hit for Al Hibbler in the 50s and later covered by Marvin Gaye and Lou Rawls. Add Catherine Russell to the list of the song’s most soulful interpreters…
Despite the legacy and mid-era swing of “I Cover the Waterfront,” Russell manages to inject a bit of a more modern edge, just enough to remind us of the timelessness of the lyric; bassist Lee Hudson proves to be a tasteful collaborator, while tenorman Andy Farber adds a solo that mirrors Russell’s cross-generation appeal. It’s a winning closing track on a winning album that proves some songs will never go out of our hearts—not as long as the likes of Catherine Russell carry the torch so well.”
“It’s unlikely that there will be a sexier jazz vocal performance this year than Russell’s rendition of ‘Aged and Mellow’…unless it’s her smoldering delivery of ‘After The Lights Go Down Low.” On Bring It Back, Catherine Russellturns in her most fully realized vocal performances to date - by turns sassy, sexy, humorous, reflective and joyous.”
"…For her 5th album, Cat chose some classic under recorded songs from the Jazz Age and Swing Era, injected them with modern sensibilities without losing their essence, and is accompanied by a superb 10 piece group. Add Catherine’s brilliant vocal approach and you have what I am certain is her best recording to date, moreover it is aptly titled, Bring It Back for Jazz Village. Ms. Russell is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and is also a GRAMMY® winner. The native New Yorker garnered the coveted award for her participation on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire sound track; moreover, she is heard singing in the film, Kill Your Darlings. A superlative singer, a sensational songbook, magnificent musical accompaniment all blended together brilliantly, the results are clear, after you hear Catherine Russell’s Bring It Back, you’ll be bringing it back to your player for frequent listening!"
"…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.”
"…with a steady series of well-received albums (her fifth as a solo artist, “Bring It Back,” was released this week), Russell has emerged on her own terms as a charismatic bandleader with a knack for mining deep grooves in overlooked selections from the songbooks of the great ladies of jazz and blues — think Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan — as well as the worlds of rhythm and blues and Tin Pan Alley.
Long illuminated by the reflected glow of her parents’ music, Russell has now earned the cachet to direct her own professional momentum toward a heightened appreciation of her forbearers’ contributions.
“I feel like I went into the family business,” she says in a phone interview from her home in New York City. “It’s a joy. It’s incredible for me to keep them alive through what I’m doing.”
She led a 2012 concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center highlighting Russell père’s work with Armstrong. She produced her mother’s only record as a lead vocalist, shortly before Ray’s death last year.
“Lucille” is featured on Russell’s new album, along with three other songs freshly arranged for that New York showcase and others associated with Fats Waller and Cleo Brown. Her jazz combo is augmented to a brass-heavy 10-piece on some tracks, adding some big(ger) band heft to the hard-swinging proceedings. (When she plays Scullers on Friday, she’ll be backed by a quartet.)
Despite the historically minded tilt of recent projects, Russell is no curator of faded memories. Her musical instincts tend toward fresh interpretations intended to breathe life into old songs. On her new album, a merry reading of “You’ve Got Me Under Your Thumb” recalls the early days of jazz, while “I’m Sticking With You Baby” is a rib-sticking stew of gospel and rhythm and blues. The title of “You Got to Swing and Sway” pretty accurately describes its likely effect on listeners…”
Get your tickets to see Ahmad Jamal at the Portland Jazz Festival on February 21!
"Jamal is still doing it – dropping kernels of melody inside infectious rhythms…on his own tunes “Firefly” and “Silver” (the latter a tribute to Horace Silver), he is on this disc a patriarch of jazz piano whose fire has never banked" - The Buffalo News
World Village has forged itself a reputation for excellence on the international musical scene in just a few short years. Seeking out talents from all around the world, carefully designed covers and booklets: these are the key values of the label, which is run by four producers working between France, the USA, Spain and the UK, who pursue an ambitious signing policy.
Jazz Village, the newest label in the Harmonia Mundi family, allows audiences to experience the best of current jazz music, from Europe to the Americas, from traditional to modern, through urban soul and new sound crossbreeds. On the menu: a dozen yearly releases featuring musical veterans, young idols and bright emerging talents.