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Catherine Russell: Sentimental Streak

It seems safe to posit that Catherine Russell has yet to meet a musical genre she doesn’t like. Her richly checkered curriculum vitae includes stints with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Paul Simon, Rosanne Cash and David Bowie. She’s appeared on and off-Broadway, gained an appreciation for New Orleans blues from Doc Cheatham, sung pop, rock and show tunes between standup gigs at Catch a Rising Star, and strutted her soulfulness with Jimmy Vivino’s Big Band.

Now, on her sophomore disc, the magnetic Russell (whose grand and glorious voice suggests a marvelous amalgam of Lee Wiley’s sardonic sophistication and Dinah Washington’s gutsy sass) further widens her repertoire to embrace the era of her pianist/bandleader father Luis and her acclaimed vocalist/bassist mother, Carline Ray. There are sizzling nods to Alberta Hunter (“My Old Daddy’s Got a Brand New Way to Love,” “You for Me, Me for You”), saucy salutes to Bessie Smith (“Kitchen Man”) and Nellie Lutcher (“You Better Watch Yourself, Bub”) and sly winks to Pearl Bailey (“I’m Lazy, That’s All”) and Lena Horne (“Thrill Me”). These are interspersed with a stunning “South to a Warmer Place” (inspired by a Sinatra radio transcription), a shimmering reading of Armstrong’s “So Little Time (So Much to Do)” (adapted from her dad’s 1938 arrangement) and two terrific new compositions (Rachelle Garniez’s clever, sexy “Broken Nose” and Russell’s own, equally cunning “Luci”). It all adds up to a sepia-tinted smorgasbord that’s as bountiful as it is delectable.

Originally Published