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Catherine Russell (or 'Cat' Russell as she is apparently known to her friends) is nothing short of a phenomenon. She is not only a fine artist: she is a communicator. Her brand of jazz is a happy throw back to those evening of jazz in clubs that just made you dance. Everything about what Catherine Russell sings is a performance filled with the highest quality musicianship and a great scoop of fun.

She knows how to take a melody and make it fly, and she knows when a sweet tune should be simple and touch the soul. And she even takes a bow to the gospel signature songs and makes them completely her own. How she covers so much territory in one fine CD is beyond description. Yes,,she has fine back-up from a jazz quartet (Matt Munisteri, guitar and banjo, Mark Shane, piano, Lee Hudson, bass, and Mark McLean, drums) and on some of the songs she calls on assistance from vocalist Carline Ray, or John Aldred, trombone, and Dan Block, clarinet.

The songs one this CD are as follows: Under the Spell of the Blues, I'm in the Mood for Love, Wake up and Live, Ev'ntide, Romance in the Dark, I'm Checking Out, Goom'bye, No More, Satchel Mouth Baby, Everything's Benn Done Before, Don't Leave Me, I Haven't Changed a Thing, Everybody Loves M Baby, He's All I Need, and Whatcha Gonna Do When There Ain't No Swing? Her selection of songs coupled with her glowing and sophisticated performances make this new album one that was well worth the wait. Cat Russell is a bit of a miracle. Dance! Grady Harp, February 12
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If "Strictly Romancin'" doesn't wake you and make you happy, there's something wrong with you. Catherine "Cat" Russell is a musical treasure, a classic jazz singer with great intelligence and feeling whose parents were jazz musicians and scholars. Her tone is bright and clear, her phrasing light and nimble. Her band supports her perfectly with crisp, witty, swinging arrangements that never fail to raise a smile.

The 14-track album kicks off with "Under the Spell of the Blues," a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald in her early days with the Chick Webb Orchestra. There are many more nods to great jazz women like Lil Green ("Romance in the Dark"), Kay Starr ("I Haven't Changed A Thing"), Abbey Lincoln ("No More"), and Mary Lou Williams ("Satchel Mouth Baby"), with whom Russell's mother worked.

Cat performs a couple of standards, like "I'm in the Mood for Love," but with most of the songs she reaches back to rescue and rejuvenate some wonderful if lesser-known gems from the past, such as Cab Calloway's "Wake Up and Live" and Hoagy Carmichael's "Ev'ntide," originally performed by Louis Armstrong (Russell's father played with Satchmo for a number of years). Perhaps my favorite is the irresistably bouncy "Everybody Loves My Baby," first recorded by Armstrong in 1924 and later by the Boswell Sisters. "Strictly Romancin'" isn't just jazz, though; besides Tin Pan Alley numbers, Catherine duets with her 86-year-old mom on a gospel tune, Sister Rosetta Tharpe's "He's All I Need."

Russell has released an album every two years since 2006, when she turned 50 and stopped working as a back-up singer for the likes of David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, and Rosanne Cash. All four of her CDs on the World Village label are worthy of praise and patronage, but her newest is the best yet, with a delightful choice of songs and a joyful mood. And her numerous extended interviews and performances at the National Public Radio website are not to be missed, including segments on Fresh Air, Piano Jazz, JazzSet, and Mountain Stage. Listen!
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on February 19, 2012
The thing about Catherine Russell that makes her great is that for her it's all about the song. Too many singers think each recording is an opportunity to show off their prowess with vocal pyrotechnics. Cat certainly has a powerful instrument - check out Don't Leave Me if you doubt that. But she truly cares first about the music she performs and lets it shine, using a real artist's sensibility to bring out the nuances. Listen to her superbly understated I'm in the Mood for Love here and you'll know what I mean.
As always, she surrounds herself with world-class players and gives them plenty of room to do their thing; she knows when to stay out of the way. And they all know exactly what to do. It's been too long since I heard stellar trombone work - thank you, John Allred!
The absolute gem of this album has to be He's All I Need, a great old Sister Rosetta Tharpe gospel tune done to perfection as a duet with Carline Ray - vocalist, bassist, Julliard graduate, and, incidentally, Cat's mother.
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on February 18, 2012
This is a wonderful album. Catherine's singing speaks clearly to the listener and just makes you feel good all over, she tells a clear story to the heart with every song be it sad or happy. On the standards, nobody today can sing as rhythmically and keep a melody moving forward like Catherine Russell. I love the way she can be a part of the rhythm like the best solo jazz horn players and swing like Ella and Anita O'Day and Peggy Lee and many others. Those are some heavy hitters, but Catherine IS in their league in every way. On the blues, she is a modern-day Billie Holiday. I would have loved to hear Catherine perform with, for example, the late Joe Williams, that would be an awesome sound together. She is that good. Buy this album, it will be played a lot.
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on April 6, 2012
I've listened to this CD now countless times. Catherine Russel's voice is divine. I'd heard her interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross and was struck with how much I enjoyed the music she was singing and her story. I'm 29 and dont typically listen to music like this but the CD really amazed me. It relaxes me like nothing else. It is simply a wonderful CD and she is truly an artist.
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on January 15, 2013
Catherine Russell has an exceptionally clear voice and perfect delivery. Song selection for this album is classic. Accompaniment doesn't interfere, and excellent engineering enhances the experience. Strictly Romancin' is my new favorite jazz album.
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VINE VOICEon November 12, 2012
This c.d. by the criminally underrated Cat Russell does not break new grounds. But it is one of the most enjoyable releases I've heard in this and most any other year.

These songs are covers; but except for "I'm in the Mood for Love," you may not be particularly familiar with them. In the main they are songs from the swing era, but they are not all "swing songs." Ms. Russell and producer Paul Kahn serve up a smorgasbord of shouting blues (Ivory Joe Hunter's "Don't Leave Me," track 10, "Under the Spell of the Blues," track 1, and Lillian Green's "Romance in the Dark," track 5); gospel (Rosetta Tharp's, "He's All I Need," track 13, sung here as a duet with Ms. Russell's mother, Carline Ray); gentle swing (Hoagy Carmichael's "Even'tide," track 4, Mary Lou Williams' "Satchel Mouth Baby," track 8, and Jerry Livingston's ""Watchya Gonna Do When There Ain't No Swing," track 14); and three of the most jitterbuggin', get off your couch and move your feet renditions ever of Mack Gordon's "Wake Up and Live" (track 3),Duke Ellington's "I'm Checkin' Out, Goombye" (track 6) and Spencer Williams' "Everybody Loves My Baby" (track 12).

To me, the above-referenced last three tracks are the highlights of this magnificent album. When she sings softly, Ms. Russell is a bit nasally for my taste; but when she belts, she is a shouter who raises the temperature of the room by herself considerably.

The backup instrumentalists are tight. Mark Shane (piano) and Matt Munisteri (guitar) set the rhythms perfectly throughout; John Allred's trombone on "Goombye" is an album highlight; and John Erik-Kelso's horn arrangements are top drawer.

I hope this album lifts Cat Russell out of relative obscurity. She deserves to be mentioned in Down Beat's "Rising Star" category; and while I wouldn't expect this album to be nominated for a Grammy, I for one would be delighted if it did. RC
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on May 1, 2012
Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I was so excited to hear that Catherine Russell had released another CD! Yippee-skippy dance! Miss Cat does not disappoint! Such a nice rich voice, great arrangements. I loved every song, and that is a rarity for any CD. Some standouts for me were: Ev'ntide (makes my toes tap), Romance In The Dark (such a bluesy feel), Satchel Mouth Baby (let's dance) and Don't Leave Me (think smoky, dark cafe and too much booze).

I want to be her when I grow up; each song is a Master Class in Jazz singing!

I bought the whole album as an MP3 download just because it's her and I'm a big fan and it's great, better than expected!

Highly recommended!
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on November 21, 2012
The whole album is great, with a nice variety of tunes, swinging arrangements, and fine musicians. "Cat" is divine, her horn-like phrasing supported superbly by the band. The production is definitely "old school", reminiscent of the tight arrangements heard so often in the 30's and 40's. Listen a few times and you'll find yourself humming the tunes. Five stars aren't enough for this album!
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on September 6, 2012
When it comes to jazz singers, Catherine Russell is the real thing. Her song selection, careful reverence for the songwriter's melody, arrangements, and instrumentation all set her apart from much of what is out there these days. If you enjoy listening to artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Etta James, or any of the blues singers from the 20's-40's, you will love this recording.
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