Catherine Russell

Inside This Heart of Mine

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Catherine Russell's third album is definitely a throwback to vintage jazz, and honors her father Luis Russell, a premier big-band leader and music director for Louis Armstrong. It's a collection of old-time swing, slinky do-right blues, and reflective music that shows how much she's steeped in the tradition of classic African-American music. Considerable help is utilized from backup musicians like pianist Mark Shane, Matt Munisteri on guitar or banjo, and a horn section with trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, trombonist John Allred, and veteran tuba master Howard Johnson on select tracks. Russell's light yet strong voice is clear as a bell, her pleasant singing tinged with a bit of sly knowledge and a hint of bluesy regret. Vintage material suits her persona quite well as on the old-timey J.C. Johnson/Fats Waller-penned title track taking sweetness out of gloom, the downhearted "Troubled Waters," or the low-down "Spoonful"; Armstrong's cakewalkin' "Struttin' with Some Barbeque"; and the great jump blues tune "Quiet Whiskey" from Wynonie Harris. Then there's "We the People," a declaration of freedom that works well in the contemporary Obama era, and a wary cautionary tale, "Just Because You Can," telling those who flaunt their power or persona to be careful about what you wish for. Every track provides delight and surprise, as all great jazz should, while Russell's blues side keeps not only the swinging in check, but assures you the singer has led this life of ups and downs to the hilt. It's an extraordinary recording, and highly recommended for a wide audience.

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