Catherine Russell – ‘Alone Together’ (2019)
It’s always a treat to hear new music from Catherine Russell. The acclaimed singer and arranger has been quite busy with her amazing band while continuing to add additional magic to Steely Dan shows. It’s amazing the she found the time to record Alone Together, but I am glad she did.
Never content to rest on the past, Russell delivers 13 stellar interpretations on this new project, not only highlighting her gifts as a vocalist but also as a band leader. Oh, and what a band. Guitarist Matt Munisteri, drummer Mark Mclean, bassist Tal Ronan and keyboardist Mark Shane conspire to deliver a timeless blend which is perfectly supportive to Russell.
The title track kicks things off with the able support of McLean’s brush work, Mark Shane’s coy piano and a delicately restrained horn ensemble. The trombone and tenor sax solo are almost as elegant as Catherine Russell’s vocals. “When Did You Leave Heaven” relies on a soulful arrangement which allows Russell to employ her world-class phrasing. The addition of a string ensemble only adds to the yearning appeal of this old chestnut. And just when you think the song could not get better, Matt Munisteri delivers an economical yet expressive electric guitar to power things along. This is a true gem from beginning to the last note Russell sings.
“Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” is yet another old jazz standard enlivened by Russell’s tight arrangement and vocal dexterity. The song struts along with Shane’s piano and Ronan’s bouncy bass, and that’s before a muted trumpet enters into the fray. This is yet another example of how Russell can transform a masterpiece into something full of new appeal.
“Shake Down the Stars” is another timepiece revitalized by the tight horn arrangement, and the fine interplay of bass and drums. Russell is in her element here, selling this lovely tale of yearning. The trumpet helps to further press the point, giving the song another fine instrumental counter balance. “I Wonder” finds Russell in a state of jealousy. The hurt and anguish are evident, but Russell is such a superior vocalist she never over sings. The guitar solo again matches the mood. Catherine Russell can bring you down like nobody’s business – and you’ll thank her and beg for more.
“He May Be Your Dog, But Here’s Wearing My Collar” has the smell of cheating all over it. The New Orleans feel of the dobro, Russell’s vocals and the piano paint a familiar and fun picture. This portrait of a vixen is funny, and compelling. “I Only Have Eyes For You” is a surprising addition, given that there are so many versions. But Russell and her small ensemble can create magic, even if the spell is well worn.
Perhaps that’s the charm of Alone Together: Catherine Russell is a stellar artist not just because of her enchanting voice, but also because of her gift as an interpreter and her passion for the music.