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CD Review: Catherine Russell

Sentimental Streak

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The Deal: Catherine Russell reinvents a genre.

The Good: Even if you hate jazz, never understood it and never wanted to, you'll love what Catherine Russell does with it. Forget everything you thought about that genre. There's no pretension, no histrionics, no weird time signature you couldn't count even with your shoes off. Just a woman who sings her ass off and makes it sounds as easy and as natural as breathing. Russell mixes it up from Louis Armstrong to Willie Dixon. Her dad, Luis, was Armstrong's musical director, and Armstrong's spirit of fun and adventure apparently trickled down to her. On his "So Little Time So Much To Do" she updates the swing era. She rocks Willie Dixon's "I Don't Care who Knows" like a female Joe Turner, big, bold and jumpin'. She delivers the Alberta Hunter-ish double entendre of "Kitchen Man" matter-of-factly, making the risqué lyrics stand out even more: "Anytime he wants to/ he can use my sugar bowl," she proclaims. But her real talent is making all this stuff sounding like it was written yesterday. Norah Jones and Lizz Wright may attempt this stuff, but Russell makes 'em look like amateurs.

The Bad: That it's called jazz. Rename it so it doesn't scare people off.

The Verdict: Get it and start sopping this stuff up. This is music that'll survive.

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