Native New Yorker and vocalist Catherine Russell, whose father was the long-time music director for Louis Armstrong, knows a thing or two about authenticity. In this age of tribute albums, solely designed to help push sales, comes the real thing in the form of Inside This Heart Of Mine. Russell doesn’t have to call this release a tribute because with every heartfelt nuance and every swinging turn of phrase Russell aptly demonstrates what real tributes are all about.
Eschewing music designed to appeal to a wide audience, Russell makes choices based on musical value and as such she outwits her contemporary sales hawks putting together a disc with more fun and panache than almost the whole lot of the others put together. Drawing from a catalog of songs by real jazz song writers, like Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Howlin’ Wolf, and her own father, as just a few examples, Russell brings an excitement to jazz vocals sorely missing since the passing of Carmen McRae.
Whether Russell is crafting her way through Wynonie Harris’ "Quiet Whiskey," or showing true blues esprit de core on "Spoonful," or two-stepping during Andy Razaf’s "We The People," Russell radiates authenticity. Selecting a variety of different instrumental combinations to accompany the songs, the use of only tuba/banjo/and the barest of drums on "We" is way too hip for modern ears; you can tell Russell had fun prepping for the sessions.
The sonic event that ties all the cuts together is the emphasis on acoustic instruments throughout. Sometimes it’s a small Dixieland combo minus drums, as on "Slow As Molasses," or one of the other possibilities she unfurls, each and every track is some of the best music ever recorded. If by the end of the disc you aren’t up and parading through your home as you listen to the Armstrong’s concluding "Struttin’ With Some Barbeque," call the coroner, because you’re dead.