catherine russell

Catherine Russell preview: Artful swing from the ground up

Renowned jazz singer's new album is grounded in her Harlem roots 


“Some people feel music from the top down; they’re not hip-shakers. They like the violins and long tones,” Catherine Russell, 60, said from her downtown Manhattan home in late September. “Some of us are more rooted in the ground. We hear it from the ground up. Music makes me want to move.”

Female jazz vocalists like Billie Holiday and Ethel Waters, Mildred Bailey, Etta James and Dinah Washington were ground-up performers as well. Called “the best blues and jazz singer going today” by the Wall Street Journal, Russell can sing those stars’ signatures almost better than they did themselves. That’s jazz, that’s art: grabbing the past, moving forward with it, putting an individual twist on it.

Catherine Russell performs Tuesday in Portland.

Catherine Russell performs Tuesday in Portland.

Next Tuesday at Portland’s Old Church, Russell will sing with her trio — pianist Mark Shane, Matt Munisteri on guitar, and bassist Kerry Lewis – who have worked with her on her six solo albums. The show is part of PDX Jazz’s fully loaded fall series.