Vocalist Catherine Russell comes from jazz royalty. Her father, Luis Russell, was Louis Armstrong’s music director. Her mother, Carline Ray, was a veteran jazz bassist and vocalist. Carline performed with The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Mary Lou Williams, and Wynton Marsalis.
Catherine has been a first-call back-up vocalists with legendary pop and rock musicians, including David Bowie, Cyndie Lauper, Paul Simon and Steely Dan. More recently, she released several albums of her own, all imbued with her rich sense of jazz and blues history. Catherine retools vintage material that was first popularized by luminaries such as Billie Holiday, Joe Williams, Al Hibler, and Esther Phillips. Somehow, she breathes new life into these classics, with boundless energy and her personal stamp of sincerity and soul.
In our conversation, Cat talks about how to engage an audience, the importance of lyrics, and growing up in the jazz-mecca of New York City. She also reacts to the five-star review of her latest album, Bring It Back, in Downbeat Magazine and reveals her reverence for Tony Bennett and Liza Minnelli.
On record, on stage and in our interview, Cat keeps it real. Her inner child is very much alive and her sense of humor is remarkable.
Russell performs at Harlow’s in Sacramento on Friday, Aug. 8.