Not many can say they have appeared on over 200 albums with some of the world’s greatest recording artists, including David Bowie, Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis, Steely Dan and Donald Fagen.
However, that is exactly what jazz vocalist Catherine Russell has accomplished.
Russell was born with music in her DNA. Her father, the late Luis Russell was a renowned arranger, composer, pianist, bandleader and music director for Louis Armstrong. And her mother, Carline Ray, carried her own as a bassist, guitarist and vocalist who performed with International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Mary Lou Williams and Ruth Brown.
Russell’s swinging 20s, soulful, bluesy, twangy and sultry sounds can transport you to a hole-in-the wall juke joint, quaint restaurant in a city or ritzy venue anywhere in the world.
“When I got home from David Bowie's tour in 2004, the only thing I hadn't done was record under my own name,” Russell said of her decision to record her 2006 debut album “Cat.” “I really wasn't sure about becoming a band leader, but with encouragement from my husband, I decided on a list of songs I knew and could record. My husband had a musician/producer friend outside of Chicago with a recording studio who hired musicians to work with me.”
Russell won a Grammy Award in 2012 for her performance on the soundtrack album for “Broadwalk Empire.”
“That Grammy was a 'various artists' award, which means that several artists contributed to the recording,” Russell said. “I am proud to be a part of it because I had no idea when I did the recording session that Boardwalk Empire would be such a big hit.”
Russell’s rich, surly, soulful and strong voice is reminiscent of many legendary artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday.
“I have collaborated with Brianna Thomas and Charenee Wade on a show called, "Ladies Sing the Blues" which started at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City in 2013,” Russell said. “That project is focused mostly on the early blues women of the 1920s with some 1930s tunes mixed in. We've had a lot of fun with that project.”
At the Savannah Music Festival, Russell will be performing with the John Pizzarelli Trio in the program, “Billie and Blue Eyes.”
“Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra recorded so many tunes between them, that it's easy to gather material and put together a show of great songs from both of their catalogues,” Russell said. “Great songs! I love working with John and his musicians because we love to swing, and we love great material that inspires us. And there's also enough material in these catalogues that will be familiar to our audiences.”
“Savannah Music Festival is one of the great festivals, and I enjoy it every time I perform there. Come Swing with us!"