Making her fifth appearance on Mountain Stage since 2006, Grammy-winning vocalist Catherine Russell treated the audience to songs off her latest album, Alone Together.
Russell performed with David Bowie in his last touring band as background vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, and she’s been singing with Steely Dan from the mid-1990s to the present. Her jazz pedigree is a family affair. Her late father, Luis Russell, was pianist, orchestra leader, and musical director for Louis Armstrong. Her mother, the late bassist and vocalist Carline Ray, had two degrees including one from Juilliard, so it’s no surprise that Russell can sing anything and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the music.
Flying high on the groove of Matt Munisteri (guitar), Mark Shane (piano) and Tal Ronen (bass), she set the tone for the good times to follow with “Having Myself A Time,” in which she sings, “I’m having what I want, wanting what I have / Doing what I like and liking what I do and I am having myself a time.”
With the audience having themselves a time too, Russell slow rolled into the aching beauty of “Alone Together,” before burrowing down into the blues with the Louis Jordan song, “Early In The Morning.” She deftly downshifts into “When Did You Leave Heaven?,” the 1936 ballad covered by the likes of Bob Dylan and Big Bill Broonzy.
Wearing her hip jazz history hat, she introduces the 1923 Rosa Henderson song, “He May Be Your Dog But He’s Wearing My Collar,” by sharing her love of the female singers of that era. “Those of you who know me know I love the blues women of the 1920s,” she said. “Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, Clara Smith, Trixie Smith, Ethel Waters, Sippie Wallace, Eva Taylor and the list goes on and on.”
Russell and the band all show their chops on the closing number, an incredibly nimble rendering of the Nat King Cole number “I’m an Errand Girl for Rhythm.”
- “Having Myself A Time” (Leo Rubin/Ralph Rainger)
- “Alone Together” (Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz)
- “Early In the Morning” (Louis Jordan, Art Hickman, Dallas Bartley)
- “When Did You Leave Heaven” (Richard Whiting/Walter Bullock)
- “He May Be Your Dog But He’s Wearing My Collar” (Public Domain)
- “I’m An Errand Girl For Rhythm” (Nat King Cole)