Vocalist Catherine Russell is always searching for that next great melody. She's found more than a dozen of them to sing on her latest album, Inside This Heart Of Mine.
Catherine Russell is a perfectionist when it comes to choosing her material. Her first rule is it has to swing, as heard on her interpretation of Ray Gilbert's "All The Cats Join In."
Catherine's love for the stage began at home. She says her parents, noted jazz composer Luis Russell and singer and bass player Carline Ray, introduced her to music and dance without any pressure of following in their footsteps.
"They didn't want to be 'stage parents', so they went with what I wanted to do more than [what they wanted me to do]," she says. "I had a mean piano teacher when I was little so they didn't make me study with her. My mother was playing for dance classes at Katherine Dunham's dance studio, and then I actually got the opportunity to study dance, and join her company as a result of that. So, it happened organically [naturally] rather than people forcing me to be on stage."
Catherine launched her career as a backup singer for Jackson Browne, Steely Dan, Paul Simon and others. Since the release of her first solo album in 2006, Catherine has carefully chosen songs with a personal connection.
"I like so many different kinds of music," she says, "and I've been influenced by so many different kinds of music that I do a lot of research; because doing this project has really encouraged me to listen to a lot of different things all the time, and really find songs that I like. The process is if I like a melody, the story of the lyric, and the harmonic structure of a tune, then that makes me want to learn it, and sing it and research it. So, that's pretty much how I find everything."
Among Catherine Russell's diverse collection of vintage jazz and swing is a tune titled "Spoonful" by legendary Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon. Catherine says all of her songs have some element of blues in them.
"It seems to me that blues is a way of working out how you feel. So, blues has always been very personal for me because it really is a process of how we explore our feelings and feel better about ourselves in the mist of that sadness. That's what it kind of means to me," she says. "[In the] history of the blues, people were just making themselves feel better in adverse circumstances."
Also featured on Catherine's new CD are works by Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Lillian Hardin Armstrong, and Catherine's father Luis, as well as the Tin Pan Alley classic by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, "As Long As I Live."