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Catherine Russell: Eye of the Cat

Catherine Russell

Forget what the Chinese zodiac tells you; this is shaping up to be the year of the Cat. After years on fame’s periphery, singer Catherine “Cat” Russell is, with the release of her dazzling sophomore platter Sentimental Streak (World Village), at long last earning the critical praise and widespread attention she so richly deserves.

She has been immersed in show business virtually since birth. Her father, Panamanian musician and songwriter Luis Russell, literally won his ticket to Stateside success nearly a century ago, scoring a then-whopping $5,000 in his native land’s national lottery and using the money to pay his way to America. There he signed on with King Oliver, emerging as leader of one of the hottest jazz orchestras of the 1920s and then serving as pianist, arranger and music director for fellow Oliver alumnus Louis Armstrong. Russell’s mother is acclaimed bassist and vocalist Carline Ray, whose résumé includes stints with Duke Ellington, Sy Oliver and the celebrated, all-female International Sweethearts of Rhythm. She still actively performs at age 82.

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