Catherine Russell has been on my mind recently.
Of course, I’m excited by the fact that Steely Dan has decided to tour on what is one of their off cycle years. Part of the thrill of last several seasons of Steely Dan tours has been the band’s arsenal of fantastic background singers. Catherine Russell has always risen to the occasion, whether it was a Steely Dan show or singing with Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs in the Dukes of September.
Imagine my disappointment when I found out Miss Russell will miss this year’s Steely Dan show.
Luckily for me, I caught Catherine Russell on stage in 2013 with a small combo featuring Matt Munisteri on guitar, Mark Shane on piano and Lee Hudson on bass. One of the many highlights from that live show was her rendering of the Johnny Otis and Preston Love composition “Aged and Mellow.” The songm featured on Russell’s acclaimed new release Bring It Back, allows Miss Russell to demonstrate her wonderfully rich tone and enclopedic jazz knowledge to create something new from this 1952 Ester Phillips classic.
Simultaneously sassy and sly, Miss Russell’s understated vocal plays around with the rythum section yet leaves just the right space for Mark Shane’s smoky piano solo. The gentle horn arrangement, written by Miss Russell is like a fine porto wine enhancing a great dessert. At about five minutes, the song leaves you with a smile on your face and a desire to hear more. Luckily, there are twelve other great tracks on Bring It Back.