By Tom Lucci, WICN

Catherine Russell, Alone Together. Any Catherine Russell release makes my best of the year by default. Her vitality, care, humor, and chops on rarely performed tunes like “Shake Down the Stars” make A-List standards like “I Only Have Eyes for You” and the title track stand out all the more.

Svetlana, A Night at the Movies. Cinema always had a deep meaning for cabaret star Svetlana, a Russian emigre. This romp through movie themes of all eras is great fun – and the musicianship shows through on repeat listening. Highlights include Steven Sondheim’s all-too-rarely heard “Sooner or Later” and spirited duets with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon on “Cheek to Cheek” and “Happy”, among a well-chosen, creatively-scored program.

Ralph Peterson and the Gennext Big Band, Listen Up! Professor Ralph Peterson of Berklee earned a real-world Ph.D. in musicality as Art Blakey’s protégé, and he brilliantly passes on the legacy of Buhaina and the Jazz Messengers to his students in the Gennext Big Band. After last year’s live I Remember Bu, their first studio album again features classic themes from the likes of Wayne Shorter and Curtis Fuller – plus a gorgeous “Skylark”. The energy and passion are palpable, the charts are formidable – and these young people have the musicianship to pull it off in style

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