Berklee Beantown Jazz FestivalCatherine Russell
With her sixth album, Harlem on My Mind, Grammy Award–winning vocalist Catherine Russell journeys to the blue heart of the Great African American Songbook. Swinging forth with soulful interpretations, Russell taps the golden age of Harlem, as befits this vibrant daughter of jazz. Vocalists Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Dinah Washington provide inspiration where tunesmiths such as Benny Carter, Irving Berlin, Andy Razaf, and Fats Waller once ruled the roost.
Of the title track, Russell said, “It’s about not forgetting your roots,” which also serves as her modus operandi for the entire collection. “The album is comprised of songs from artists who played at the Apollo in Harlem, where all African American artists of note appeared.”
Russell is a native New Yorker, born into musical royalty. Her father, the late Luis Russell, was a legendary pianist, composer, and bandleader, and was Louis Armstrong’s longtime musical director. Her mother, Carline Ray, was a pioneering vocalist, guitarist, and bassist who performed with International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Mary Lou Williams, and Sy Oliver.
“My mother was born and raised in Harlem, and my father led one of the leading orchestras in Harlem, which was part of the inspiration for this album,” Russell noted.