Grammy Award-winning vocalist Catherine Russell teams up with jazz guitarist, vocalist, and bandleader John Pizzarelli in a stunning tribute to Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra in Billie & Blue Eyes. Dubbed “the essential duo,” Russell and Pizzarelli transport audiences to the glory days of jazz with masterful ease, capturing Holiday’s effortless grace and Sinatra’s cool swagger.
About John Pizzarelli
John Pizzarelli, the world-renowned guitarist, and singer, has established himself as a prime contemporary interpreter of the Great American Songbook and beyond, with a repertoire that includes Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Antônio Carlos Jobim, and The Beatles. He has been hailed by The Boston Globe for “reinvigorating the Great American Songbook and re-popularizing jazz.” The Toronto Star pegged him as “the genial genius of the guitar.” And The Seattle Times saluted him as “a rare entertainer of the old school.”
Following high-profile collaborations with Sir Paul McCartney and Michael McDonald, Pizzarelli returns to his roots to honor his hero, the legendary jazz/pop vocalist and pianist Nat King Cole, whose centennial is being celebrated around the world this year with various concerts, books, and recordings. For Centennial Reasons… completes an epic trio of Pizzarelli albums saluting Cole, starting with Dear Mr. Cole, which helped put Pizzarelli on the map as an influential jazz guitarist and singer in 1994, and continuing with P.S. Mr. Cole, which cemented his legacy five years later.
For Centennial Reasons… – featuring John Pizzarelli on guitar and vocals, Mike Karn on double bass, and Konrad Paszkudzki on piano – is produced by John Pizzarelli and co-produced by Jessica Molaskey.
“Nat King Cole is the reason why I do what I do,” comments Pizzarelli. “The joy that he brought me has never faded and the musicality of his group remains fresh and vibrant to this day. I even got to work with Natalie Cole, Nat’s daughter, meet Nat’s wife Maria Cole, and become friends with and play with Freddy Cole, Nat’s brother. We are lucky to have lived in a world that gave us Nat Cole, the man, and the music.”
For Centennial Reasons… features several songs Pizzarelli hasn’t previously recorded, from timeless well-known ballads (“When I Fall in Love,” “Body and Soul,” “The Very Thought of You”) to idiosyncratic jazz classics (Bobby Troup’s “I’m Such a Hungry Man,” “Save the Bones for Henry Jones”). The album also revisits and updates several numbers that Pizzarelli recorded earlier in his career. “After years of performing live,” he explains, “the trio has developed and refined these songs and, over time, figured out what we feel have become the definitive versions. Some arrangements, like ‘Route 66,’ have gotten much faster. But ‘Straighten Up and Fly Right,’ which I recorded for my first album way back in 1983, has settled into more of a mellow tone. After all this time, I can slow down and savor it. These songs never get old.”
In addition to these original takes on recognized Cole standards, this album introduces two new songs inspired by Cole’s spirit. “Nat King Cool,” written by Pizzarelli, is a sophisticated homage to the Cole Trio’s famous instrumental tracks. With his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, he penned “A Hundred Years from Now,” which craftily uses oft-cited jazz phrases to express the essence of long-term romance.
About Catherine Russell
Vocalist Catherine Russell is a native New Yorker, born into musical royalty. Her father, the late Luis Russell, was a legendary pianist/composer/bandleader, and Louis Armstrong’s long-time musical director. Her mother, the late Carline Ray, was a pioneering vocalist/guitarist/bassist who performed with International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Mary Lou Williams, and Sy Oliver. Catherine’s professional life began early. After graduating with honors from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, she toured and recorded with Carrie Smith, Steely Dan, David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Michael Feinstein, Levon Helm, Toshi Reagon, and Rosanne Cash, among others, appearing on over 200 albums.
Her 2006 debut album Cat, (World Village/Harmonia Mundi), garnered rave reviews, paving the way for her 2008 sophomore release, Sentimental Streak. Catherine was a guest on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”, PBS-TV’s “Tavis Smiley Show”, and NPR’s “Fresh Air”, “Piano Jazz”, “Mountain Stage”, “World Café”, and “Jazz Night in America.” She has won a prestigious German Record Critics Award and a Living Blues magazine critics’ poll. Catherine Russell’s third album, Inside This Heart of Mine, reached #1 on JazzWeek and Roots Music Report radio charts, while also charting on Billboard and reaching #1 on iTunes jazz charts. A fourth album, Strictly Romancin’ was released in February 2012 and was awarded Prix du Jazz Vocal (Vocal Album of The Year) by the French Jazz Academy, Grand Prix du Hot Club de France, and a Bistro Award for Outstanding Recording. Also in 2012, Catherine Russell received a Grammy® Award as a featured artist on the soundtrack album for the HBO-TV series, Boardwalk Empire.
In 2013, Catherine contributed 3 songs to the soundtrack of the film, Kill Your Darlings. Her 5th solo album, Bring It Back, was released worldwide in February of 2014 on the Jazz Village label, receiving a 5 Star review in Downbeat Magazine. In September 2016, Catherine Russell released her 6th solo album, titled Harlem On My Mind, featuring songs from the Great African American Songbook, receiving a Grammy® Nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Her 7th album as a leader, Alone Together, was released in March 2019 on Dot Time Records, held the #1 position on the JazzWeek 2019 Year End chart for national airplay, and received her second Grammy® Nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Also in 2019, Catherine appeared in the feature film Bolden, and contributed vocals to the soundtrack album by Wynton Marsalis. She appears as featured vocalist on three tracks on Big Band Holidays II, accompanied by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.
Her repertoire features a selection of gems from the 1920s through the present; vital interpretations, bursting with soul and humor. With an off-the-beaten-path song selection, sparkling acoustic swing, and a stunning vocal approach, Catherine Russell has joined the ranks of the greatest interpreters and performers of American Popular Song.