Catherine Russell ‘Bring It Back’ CD (Jazz Village) 4/5

catherine-russellThis will be a trip down memory lane for some, with the music focusing firmly and squarely on material from the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s and with a few nods to an even earlier period. Vocalist Catherine Russell has become something of a specialist in this style of jazz vocalese, but she is certainly not a mere imitation of singers of that era such as early Ella Fitzgerald or Dinah Washington. In fact, Russell is well-schooled in music since her late own mother, Caroline Ray, was herself a vocalist who performed in the 1940s as part of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm while he remains both an arranger and leader in his own right.

The new album is in part a tribute to the two parents musical heritage and in 2012 father and daughter recorded a concert ‘Louis and Luis’ as part of Jazz at the Lincoln Center in spring of that year. It is also the follow up to the 2012 album ‘Strictly Romancin’ making this Russell’s fifth album overall. She has been particularly popular in France where she has won prestigious awards such as the Prix du Jazz Vocal in 2012 and the Grand Prix du Hot Club de France. Suffice it to say that she is very much perceived across the Channel as safeguarding an earlier tradition of jazz vocal and this is reflected in the choice of repertoire which spans Duke Ellington, Johnny Otis, Fats Waller as well as an unearthed piece written by her father. She excels on laid back numbers of the calibre of Duke’s ‘I let a song go out of my heart’ and on Otis’ ‘Aged and Mellow’ also taken at a sedate pace. For swinging uptempo jazz look no further than ‘Darktown Strutters Ball’ with a fine guitar solo from Matt Munisteri who also serves as co-arranger on the album. Russell is accompanied by some fine musicianship with Earl Bostic influenced honks from alto saxophonist Dan Block on the opener and title track and punchy brass arrangements throughout.

Tim Stenhouse