Catherine Russell ‘Alone Together’ LP/CD (Dot Time) 4/5

Catherine Russell releases her brand new album, ‘Alone Together’, marking her first release through Dot Time Records, and her seventh solo album.

Much has been made of Russell’s lineage – and rightfully so – the daughter of vocalist and musician Carline Ray who held degrees from Juilliard as well as the Manhattan School of Music, and her father, Luis Russell, the pianist/composer who also served as Louis Armstrong’s musical director. But Russell’s path to solo success was still a lengthy one and while guesting as lead vocalist for the Earl May Quintet release ‘Live At Shanghai Jazz’ (2000), it still wasn’t until 2006’s ‘Cat’ (World Village) that Russell took centre stage. Prior to ‘Live At Shanghai Jazz’, Russell spent over twenty years providing backing vocals – in the studio and on stage – for renowned artists including Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Steely Dan and David Bowie.

Now newly signed to Dot Time Records, the jazz, soul and world music label showcase a dynamic roster of contemporary artists from around the world. In the seven years since its inception, Dot Time can boast releases from US violinist Zach Brock, British vocalist Ola Onabule, Polish jazz from the Marcin Losik Trio amongst many others. The addition of Catherine Russell to their line-up certainly makes for a perfect combination – her now famed interpretations of jazz classics and standards has garnered such critical acclaim that ‘Alone Together’ can only come with high expectations attached.

With guesting horn players Evan Arntzen (saxophone), John Allred (trombone) and Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), ‘Alone Together’ features long-time collaborators making up the core band including guitarist and the project’s musical director Matt Munisteri (Holly Cole, Dan Levinson), pianist Mark Shane (Lars Erstrand, Molly Ryan), bass by Tal Ronen (Dani Benedict Trio, Melechet) and drummer Mark McLean (Jamie Cullum, George Michael).

Over the course of ‘Alone Together’, Catherine Russell breezes through these thirteen interpretations with the confidence and poise as if they were her own – soaring with the upbeat swing of ‘Errand Girl For Rhythm’ and the lush take on ‘How Deep Is The Ocean?’. Another notable highlight is the bluesy ‘When Did You Leave Heaven?’ featuring the perfectly understated use of the string section comprised of Dana Lyn, Eddy Malave and Marika Hughes, and the masterpiece that is ‘Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?’, which I didn’t think I could appreciate as much when not being a serenade from the suave Tom Cat (from Tom & Jerry).

‘Alone Together’ proves to be a triumphant collaboration for the team of Dot Time and Catherine Russell and here’s to many more.

Imran Mirza

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