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Catherine Russell’s musical prowess transcends genre. Accordingly, Cat, Ms. Russell’s 2006 debut album, on Harmonica Mundi’s World Village imprint, showcases a mature, one of a kind, vocalist, who defies easy categorization. Her singing encompasses jazz balladry, bordello blues, dance hall swing, jump blues, country, pop, and soul. Catherine Russell embodies the deepest heart of American music in a single voice.
A native New Yorker, Catherine was born in 1956 with an enviable jazz pedigree. Her father, the late Luis Russell, was a pioneering pianist, composer, and bandleader who sat at the center of several of the seminal bands of 20th century American jazz and popular music. In 1935, Louis Armstrong, a fellow transplant from New Orleans to New York, named Luis Russell as his musical director and Russell's orchestra as his backing group. Catherine's mother, Carline Ray, is an outstanding bassist and vocalist and holder of advanced degrees from Julliard and Manhattan School of Music. Carline has performed with Mary Lou Williams and Wynton Marsalis.
Ms. Russell attended the High School of Music and Art and later graduated with honors from American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Professional singing opportunities soon beckoned. Catherine toured Europe singing gospel music with a group fronted by Carrie Smith including Catherine's mother Carline Ray on bass.
Returning to New York City, Catherine sang blues and soul with Jimmy Vivino's Little Big Band where she met Donald Fagen in the fall of 1989. Soon after, Catherine joined Donald Fagen, performing in the N.Y. Rock N Soul Revue, which also included Boz Skaggs, Michael McDonald, Phoebe Snow and Chuck Jackson. When Donald Fagen returned to Steely Dan for tours of the U.S. and Japan, Catherine Russell came along as a backing vocalist. Catherine's growing reputation as a versatile and expressive singer led to a call from Paul Simon and a month long run in 1992 at the Paramount Theater in New York. Every night Catherine had the thrill to step out on a vocal duet with Paul Simon along with gospel legends The Mighty Clouds of Joy on "Slip Slidin' Away".
Today, Catherine Russell lives in Manhattan, her apartment walls adorned with the gold and platinum records on which she appears. She toured the globe with David Bowie as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist on the hugely successful and critically acclaimed “A Reality Tour”, which earned the 1 top-grossing tour for the first half of 2004, according to Billboard. In addition, Ms. Russell has performed or recorded with a dizzyingly impressive array of trend setting artists, including Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Cyndi Lauper, Joan Osborne, Michael Feinstein, Madonna, Al Green, J. Geils Band, Dolly Parton, and Isaac Hayes, among others. Catherine has also joined the faculty as Associate Professor of Voice at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Catherine Russell is that rarest of entities – a genuine jazz and blues singer – who can sing virtually anything. Her voice is full blown feminity incarnate; a dusky, stalwart and soulful instrument that radiates interpretive power yet remains touchingly vulnerable. She launches fearlessly into each tune, getting inside the melody and capturing every emotion. Whether she’s shimmying through a barrelhouse stomper, channeling fifties R&B, dragging her weary heart through a torchy juke joint number, or kicking up her heels honky tonk style, Ms. Russell can stand comparison to her greatest forebears. As Grammy Award winning Jazz historian, Phil Schaap, crows in his liner notes, Sarah Vaughan, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday finally have a worthy descendant.