Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"Strictly Romancin" Catherine's 4th CD was my first introduction to Catherine Russell and I was just knocked out by her voice, her style and her approach to lyrics. One reason is because they are simply not easy to sing. These songs require an emotional understanding of the story the lyric is telling and requires the singer to sing the story with style and clarity. I believe one needs to call upon past life experience to perform these songs in a way that can bring the listener in. Catherine brings a refreshing honesty and clarity to these songs. The first song on the CD is "Under the Spell of The Blues. The 4th cut on the CD is "Ev'ntide" and it has quickly become one of my personal favorites. This tune was written by the great Hoagy Carmichael in 1936 and Louis Armstrong recorded it. The 6th cut, "I'm Checkin Out Goom'bye" is an Ellington-Strayhorn song about breaking up and it includes some great trombone work from John Allred." - Music Man Blog
"STRICTLY ROMANCIN'" is a paean to natural attractions; to a lover, an art form, and to one's family heritage. On the album, Catherine explores love's foibles, failures, and bliss, from amorous to humorous, embodying the lost art of song savvy, inhabiting the lyric, and allowing each melody to shine. On this 14 song collection, this ever soulful vocalist takes us on a journey; from Harlem dance hall, to Parisian Café, to Store Front Church, to New Orleans Gin Joint, to Uptown Cabaret, blurring distinctions between the carnal and the eternal, in a musical tour de force." - Music News Nashville
"They are all perfect in their musical support and fit with Catherine like a hand going into a glove. The producer of this CD was Paul Kahn and the recording engineer Katherine Miller and they both deserve praise for the smooth and effective way all parts of this CD were put together and mixed." - Music Man Blog
"Strictly Romancin', her fourth release, is a delightful mixed bag of jazz and blues numbers. With the help of musical director, Matt Munisteri, Russell breathes new life into some classic and rare compositions. Backed by a quartet Munisteri, Mark Shane/piano, Lee Hudson and Mark McLean, the music is expanded to include additional instrumental accompaniment. The opening track, "Under The Spell Of The Blues" is a low-key, rhythmic take on melancholy. A textured horn chorus adds some big band elan to the piece. Russell invokes more organic blues on "Don't Leave Me" (first performed by the legendary Ivory Joe Hunter). Her singing is soulful and Shane delivers a nimble solo on piano. Russell's clear emotive voice anchors the different arrangements. Her timing and pristine voice are impeccable. Café elegance inhabits the classic, "I'm In The Mood For Love". Her range and depth is fierce on Sister Rosetta Harp's gospel opus, "He's All I Need". Sung in duet with her eighty-six year old mother, the spiritual ambiance is exultant. Catherine Russell has continued the tradition of inspired jazz singing with Strictly Romancin'." - Audiophile Audition
"Romance in the Dark," from Strictly Romancin', shows how strong and sexy Russell can sound. The song was written in 1940 by the great blueswoman Lil Green - who actually toured with Luis Russell's band - and has been recorded by everyone from Billie Holiday to Dinah Washington to Norah Jones. Yet the glorious history of "Romance in the Dark" doesn't intimidate Catherine Russell. She uses her vocal instrument to play with the simple, sultry lines in unexpected ways: gleefully stretching out words, fracturing syllables, adding unexpected emphasis. The song feels so personal and passionate here that it might as well originate with her." - NPR Music
"Strictly Romancin' starts off with "Under the Spell of the Blues," a tune that demonstrates how well Russell's music straddles that fine line between jazz and blues; the listener is immediately transported back about 80 years to an era when people dressed up and tuxes and evening gowns for their night out on the town. She then turns to a very nice mellow version of the standard "I'm in the Mood for Love," the first number to allow guitarist Matt Munisteri to show off his tasteful jazz picking. This number is also given a unique sound with the addition of accordion from Joe Barbato. Russell has already convinced us that she's got a fine, fine singing voice by the time we hit the fifth cut of the album, "Romance in the Dark," a slow, late night blues from the Lillian Green songbook. But she takes it to another level here by giving a powerful gospel spirit to her voice. Shane also makes a key contribution to this number with a very good piano solo. Munisteri is back on the Mary Lou Williams number, "Satchel Mouth Baby," as he not only picks some nice guitar riffs but also sings in tight unison with Russell. I'm impressed with everything Munisteri does on this album, and would like to hear more from him." - Blue Night Productions
Living Blues (p.52) - "Most striking of all is the disc's one gospel selection: 'He's All I Need'...It's one of the simplest and most sincere gospel performances to be captured on disc in recent times."
Personnel: Catherine Russell (vocals); Matt Munisteri (guitar); Dan Block (clarinet, alto saxophone); Andy Farber (tenor saxophone); Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet); John Allred (trombone); Mark Shane (piano); Mark McLean (drums).
Audio Mixer: Katherine Miller.
Recording information: Kilgore Studios, New York, NY (05/31/2011-06/02/2011); MSR Studios, New York, NY (05/31/2011-06/02/2011).
Photographer: Stefan Falke.
Arranger: Matt Munisteri.
Vocalist Catherine Russell's fourth studio album, 2013's Strictly Romancin', is a swinging and bluesy collection of standards perfect for laid-back evening of romance or relaxation. Here, Russell frames her sultry, resonant voice with both small and large ensembles that dig into a variety of vintage-sounding arrangements. This is jazz and blues steeped in the kind of classic swing of artists like Bessie Smith, Dinah Washington, and others. Included are such songs as "I'm in the Mood for Love," "Ev'ntide," "Everbody Loves My Baby." ~ Matt Collar
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