Singer Catherine Russell’s eighth album as leader, Send for Me
, buoyantly celebrates the spirit and history of traditional jazz, starting with “Did I Remember,” famously recorded by Billie Holiday in 1936. Russell’s tone is not remotely as edgy as Lady Day’s, but here she drops the tempo a bit, and that helps to enhance the pleading nature of the lyrics: “Did I remember/To say I’m lost without you?” The title cut, a swingin’ blues shuffle that Nat King Cole waxed in ’57, is followed by “At the Swing Cat’s Ball,” which was co-written by Russell’s father, Luis Russell, and fully lives up to the title’s promise of dance and delight. (The singer interjects, “Jon Kellso makin’ his trumpet moan/John Allred on that slide trombone,” and they respond to her call with gusto.) “You Can Fly High” rollicks with a Do-the-Twist feel, and “Going Back to New Orleans” brings us to the Crescent City with the aid of Philip Norris on tuba and musical director Matt Munisteri on banjo.
Better known numbers include “East of the Sun,” which opens with the rarely performed introductory verse; “If I Could Be With You,” taken at a lazy sway; a slow but syncopated “Blue and Sentimental”; and a lithe rendition of “You Stepped Out of a Dream.” Russell knows how to have fun, and she cheerfully invites the listener to fall back in time, don some fine threads and swig some bathtub gin. But for all the charm and whimsy provided here, the highlight may well be “Make It Last,” debuted by Betty Carter in 1958. The ensemble honors Melba Liston’s original arrangement, and Russell leans into the ballad with a longing that can only be derived from honesty and empathy. — Sascha Feinstein