Catherine Russell is a native New Yorker, born into musical royalty. Her father, the late Luis Russell, was born in Panama, emigrated to New Orleans and then to Chicago and New York City, becoming a legendary pianist/bandleader/arranger/composer, and Louis Armstrong’s long-time collaborator and musical director. Her mother, Carline Ray, was a pioneering bassist/guitarist/vocalist and holder of advanced degrees from Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music, who performed with International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Mary Lou Williams, and Ruth Brown. Not surprisingly considering her pedigree, Catherine Russell is a one of a kind musician and vocalist. A graduate of American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Catherine has toured the world, performing and recording with David Bowie, Steely Dan, Cyndi Lauper, Jackson Browne, Michael Feinstein, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, Rosanne Cash, Carrie Smith, Toshi Reagon, Wynton Marsalis, Dr. John, Joan Osborne, Vince Giordano, and many others, appearing on over 200 albums.
Since the 2006 release of her debut album, Cat, on Harmonia Mundi's World Village label, Catherine Russell has been making new fans and friends. National Public Radio's top 5 jazz cd's of 2006 as chosen by WBGO's dj's included Cat, and the album garnered rave reviews worldwide. “She is a fresh and original voice." wrote Sinatra biographer, Will Friedwald, who picked Cat among his top 10 cds of the year. “It’s a delight to hear the real thing in Catherine Russell.", chimed in Nat Hentoff in The Wall Street Journal.
Five acclaimed and chart topping albums have followed. Her sophomore release in 2008, Sentimental Streak, was helmed by Grammy winning producer/multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, winning a prestigious German Record Critics Award.
Her third album, Inside This Heart of Mine released in 2010, contains gems from the 1920’s through the Present, from the likes of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, Maxine Sullivan, Wynonie Harris, Howlin’ Wolf, Rachelle Garniez, and Catherine’s dad, Luis Russell. Inside This Heart Of Mine showcases the ever-deepening interpretive wiles of Catherine Russell’s ripe, honey-dipped alto as she personifies the living heart and proud history of each song. In it's first month of release, the album jumped to the #1 position on JazzWeek's Chart for national airplay, while also charting #1 at Roots Music Report, I-Tunes and Amazon's Jazz Album Charts, and #7 on Billboard's top Traditional Jazz Albums.
Strictly Romancin', released in 2012, is a paean to natural attractions; to a lover, an art form, and to one’s family heritage. Our faithful heroine explores love’s foibles, failures, and bliss, from amorous to humorous, embodying the lost art of song savvy, inhabiting the lyric, and allowing each melody to shine. On this 14 song collection, this ever soulful jazz/blues vocalist takes us on a journey; from Harlem dance hall, to Parisian Café, to Store Front Church, to New Orleans Gin Joint, to Uptown Cabaret, blurring distinctions between the carnal and the eternal, in a musical tour de force. Strictly Romancin' was awarded Prix du Jazz Vocal (Vocal Album of The Year) by the Jazz Academy in France, Grand Prix du Hot Club de France, and a Bistro Award for Outstanding Recording, after reaching #1 on multiple Jazz Charts (JazzWeek, I-Tunes, Amazon), and #6 on Billboard. She also received a Nightlife Award as Outstanding Jazz Performer.
Ms. Russell has performed on four continents, and been a hit on major Jazz Festivals including, Montreal, Monterey, Newport, North Sea, Bern International, Charlie Parker, JazzAscona, Rochester, Detroit International, Tanglewood, Lotus World Music, Panama, I Love Jazz - Brazil, and at sold out shows at premier venues like The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Sculler's in Boston, The Dakota in Minneapolis, Yoshi's in San Francisco, Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, and The Pasadena Pops in Los Angeles. She has appeared on the nationally syndicated NPR shows Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Mountain Stage, JazzSet, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, Weekend Edition, World Cafe, Riverwalk Jazz on PRI, Song Travels with Michael Feinstein, and on national TV on The Tavis Smiley Show on PBS, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien on NBC. Reviews and profiles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Living Blues, Blues Review, Downbeat, Goldmine, No Depression, Boston Globe, Newark Star Ledger, JazzTimes, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, LA Times, Hartford Courant, and many more.
In 2012, Catherine Russell won a Grammy Award for her appearance as a featured artist on the soundtrack album for the HBO TV series Boardwalk Empire. In 2013, Catherine contributed 3 songs to the soundtrack album for the movie Kill Your Darlings, starring Daniel Radcliffe as a young Allen Ginsberg.
Catherine's 5th album, Bring It Back hit the streets in February 2014 on the Jazz Village label, and received a rave Five Star review in Downbeat Magazine. Here, Catherine Russell digs deeper into a rich vein of musical treasures. Mining collaborations between her legendary father, Luis Russell, and the great Louis Armstrong, Catherine brings along the same team from her two previous chart-topping albums. Gems from the Jazz Age and Swing Era performed with new arrangements for 10 piece orchestra, blend seamlessly with reinventions sourced from Blues icons Esther Phillips, Al Hibbler, Wynonie Harris, and Little Willie John.
A sixth album, Harlem On My Mind, was released in September 2016, on the Jazz Village label, receiving a Grammy Nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
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. Her repertoire features a selection of gems from the 1920's through the Present; vital interpretations, bursting with soul and humor. With an off-the beaten-path song selection, sparkling acoustic swing, and a stunning vocal approach, Catherine Russell joins the ranks of the greatest interpreters and performers of American Popular Song.