April 20, 2024


Website about Jazz and Blues

Live review: If you have swinging blues in your blood – Catherine Russell – The energy of the swinging sound captivates the listeners right from the start: Video, Photos

Every morning when I woke up, I had the blues… Four years ago she was supposed to be on stage at the Bix in Stuttgart, but the well-known reasons of 2020/21 prevented the New York-born Grammy winner Catherine Russel from appearing here at the established BIX.

This performance was therefore highly anticipated and, logically, completely sold out for weeks. The quintet was completed that evening by Matt Munisteri (git), Ben Paterson (p), Tal Ronen (b) and Domo Branch (dr), who opened the evening in a relaxed and relaxed manner with the classic “Swing brother swing”. Munisteri on the guitar quickly makes it clear who the “musical director” on stage is.

He is the most experienced of the band and can look back on a wide variety of musical styles in his musical history. From his initial ragtime country style, he developed into gypsy jazz to become a respected songwriter, guitarist and producer in the jazz scene. One of the albums he produced reached number six on the Billboard Jazz charts. The experience and diversity in his musical vita was clearly evident again and again that evening.

When the real star of the evening, Catherine Russell, joins us in the second piece, you sense from the first note that this voice does not need to shy away from comparison with Bessie Smith or even Billie Holiday. No wonder because she truly has swinging jazz and blues in her blood.

Her father, Louis Russell, was a legendary pianist/composer and bandleader and Louis Armstrong’s musical director for many years. Her mother, who particularly influenced her musically and who she described as her best singing teacher during the evening, was a legendary bassist who performed with Marie Lou Williams and Wynton Marsalis, among others. The young Catherine first made her debut as a dancer in a Broadway show (which is clearly visible in her movements that evening) before switching to singing to earn her living as a sought-after background singer. For over 20 years she was in the second row for Paul Simon, David Bowie, Jackson Browne and Cindy Lauper, among others.

A late entry into the studio career: Relatively late in her career, in 2006, her debut album “Cat” was released on “World Village Label”. Two years later, the second album “Sentimental Streak” followed on the same label, where Matt Munisteri appeared as a guitarist in their band for the first time.

Since then he has been an integral part of their crew and, as already mentioned, their musical arranger. Their studio recordings combine soul, swing, blues and jazz in a very special way, and the elements of early New Orleans jazz are hard to miss. Her second album, which was predominantly arranged acoustically, received, among other things, the German Record Critics’ Prize in the Jazz category in 2008.

The subsequent albums received further awards and were nominated for several Grammys. The majority of the current setlist consists of her last album “Send form me”, released in 2022, which again unmistakably reflects the influences of Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Big Mama Thornton.

The energy of the swinging sound captivates the listeners right from the start, in a positive sense, the protagonists’ solos are subtle but of high quality. Ben Paterson on the piano sometimes seems to sink into his keys, Tal Ronen on the double bass always smiles and plays his part with a lot of ease and Domo Branch on the drum set shows with his innovative style that it can often be done without drumsticks.

Over the course of the evening, Russel will interpret many greats from blues and jazz history in her own unique way. Whether it’s Nat King Cole, Ruth Brown, or Benny Carter’s “Make it last”, the singer’s sensitive approach leaves a lasting impression on the audience. At short notice, this evening there will be a switch to the South American sound with “Bocas del Toro”, which brings even more lightness to the jazz club.

One bourbon, one scotch and one beer and the bar is dancing: Catherine Russel’s voice is beyond any doubt, whether in fine “heartbreak ballads” or in John Lee Hooker’s rough blues number “One bourbon, one scotch and one beer”. The employees behind the Bixbar don’t need to be asked twice and combine their work of serving beer and bourbon with a relaxed dance.

A wonderful evening that perfectly shows how a high musical quality, a stunningly variable and soulful voice can enter into an energetic symbiosis with the audience. With the original composition “You can fly high” and the homage to the great Mr. James Brown and his song “Baby let me hold your hand”, this long-awaited evening for four years comes to a fitting end.

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