Alone Together (Dot Time Records)

Catherine Russell

Released March 2019

Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Vocal Album 2020




Alone Together, is Grammy winning vocalist Catherine Russell’s seventh studio album as a leader and her first release 0n vinyl. Meticulously mastered by for vinyl by Casper Sutton-Jones at Gearbox Records, London, UK, Catherine’s finds songs from the great artists of the past that particularly connect with present times, and manages to give them a modern spin.  Selecting tunes which first emerged during the Swing Era, Catherine’s renditions are given birth in the recording studio by the core musicians of her touring band for the past decade. On Alone Together, Catherine Russell’s curatorial skills shine brightly, plucking compositions where the lyric and harmonic structure draw her in on a deeply personal level. The listener invariably is seduced by her interpretive wiles.

Catherine Russell take us through each of its tracks, to better understand the work that went into the making of the album.

“Alone Together”

The first time I heard it was on Judy Garland’s 1961 Live at Carnegie Hall recording and I always loved the lyrics. Lately, it seems to me that it’s a song of hope. If we stick together, we might overcome whatever is in front of us. I also love the melody and the chord changes, and I think it’s just a beautiful song.

“You Turned the Tables On Me”

I love the tune because it swings. I wasn’t necessarily drawn to it in the beginning because I couldn’t really personalize the story. But then, I went back to my memory. It reminded me of old relationships, and it’s also kinda funny. I just find the lyrics comical. I like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s duet recording, and Ella’s duet accompanied by Joe Pass on guitar.

“When Did You Leave Heaven?”

First, I heard Little Jimmy Scott’s version of that tune (I think I heard him sing it live, I heard him perform several times), then I heard Nancy Wilson’s version. Those are two of my favorite singers, two of the best vocalists in my opinion. Also, another vocalist friend of mine in the New York area sang it on every show that I’d seen her do. And it really makes me smile because it says, “Heaven must be missing an angel because you’re here with me.” I like that theme.

“Early in the Morning” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”

We started doing both of those tunes in shows. We do them first for the audience, see how people react and then we might record them. Louis Jordan to me is just fun. Pure serious fun! I love that period of Rhythm & Blues. I like to see the people smiling and tapping their feet when they hear this type of tune.

“You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes”

I didn’t think about the song being timely today when I found it. I was just looking through the catalogs of Sy Oliver and Jimmie Lunceford tunes. This was originally done with Sy Oliver and the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra with a female vocalist named Myra Johnson. It is on a soundie, but I don’t think it’s on a 78 recording. I was looking for an up-tempo tune and the title appealed to me. I don’t use the music I choose as a political platform necessarily but this tune can apply to different situations, so it has a universal theme. It’s pointing a finger but in a fun musical context.

“Shake Down the Stars”

If I can’t have you here with me, I don’t want to see anything that reminds me of romance. The stars, the moon, the clouds… Anything. Another beautiful Jimmy Van Heusen/Eddie de Lange tune. I mean, it’s a great lyric and also a great melody and great chord changes, so I mixed the two versions of Frank and Ella. I also like irony in a lyric. Our lives are full of irony, so when I look for tunes, that’s sometimes what I look for in a lyric.

“I Wonder”

Louis Armstrong. I heard his version first. Then, I discovered Etta Jones’. I like the fact that this tune does not answer the question. It’s just, “I wonder.” I don’t know if you’re coming back to me, I don’t know where you are… like real life. The questions are just out there to be answered. We don’t know the answers to them, so this enables me to live through the lyric when I sing it. Beautiful tune.

“He May Be Your Dog But He’s Wearing My Collar”

Rosa Henderson was one of the many blues divas of the 1920s, one of my favorite periods of 20th-century music, starting with Bessie Smith, whom everybody’s heard of. But there are so many others that people have not heard of. I came upon this tune and I love the double entendre. We recorded Bessie Smith’s “Kitchen Man.” A friend of mine’s daughter, who was just a child at that point, just thought the song was about food. She wasn’t really old enough to get the full depth of the meaning, which I thought was hilarious. The story unfolds so people don’t know what the punch line is. I prefer not to announce the title of the tune before I sing it, so people get the punch lines as it progresses. It’s a little vignette, like a scene in a play. So, you can hopefully picture the woman that I’m talking about.

“Errand Girl for Rhythm”

I first heard vocalist Carol Sloane sing this tune at a gig with Bill Charlap and the lyric appealed to me. I was familiar with a lot of Nat Cole stuff but had never heard this tune. So, it’s fun and gives my band a chance to stretch out some. And it’s just fun to sing.

“How Deep Is the Ocean”

I love a lot of Irving Berlin’s tunes. That’s another tune with questions. We live with questions. And how much you love can be infinite, and it’s an open-ended emotion. The first thing that drew me is the lyric and melody, and I know I keep saying these things, but these are the elements that draw me to these tunes. And it’s also a more familiar tune, so we like to include some things that people have heard more. I like to dig for unknown and obscure things but there are also things that have been widely recorded that stand the test of time. So, this is one of those timeless tunes.

“I Only Have Eyes for You”

The Flamingos’ do-wop version is, I believe, the most popular version. I’ve always liked this lyric and people seem happy to hear it. The lyric seems to say that one can find their peace wherever they are. So, that’s what draws me to this tune. And it’s also the way the lyric is placed within the melody. The melody serves the lyric too. They work together beautifully. I like a good song craft.

“You’re Not the Only Oyster in the Stew” You’re not the only fish in the sea… but you are the one for me. You have everything I need, “the very things I seek.” And the tune has that Fats Waller humor, even though he didn’t write it.

Track Listing:

1. Alone Together (4:11)

2. Early In The Morning (4:13)

3. You Turned The Tables On Me (3:42)

4. He May Be Your Dog But He’s Wearing My Collar (4:09)

5. Shake Down The Stars (3:44)

6. Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby? (5:08)

7. You Can’t Pull The Wool Over My Eyes (2:41).

8. I Only Have Eyes For You (3:44)

9. When Did You Leave Heaven? (5:05)

10. You’re Not The Only Oyster In The Stew (3:51)


Catherine Russell: vocals
Matt Munisteri: guitars; musical director
Mark Shane: piano
Tal Ronen: bass
Mark McLean: drums; percussion (2)
Jon-Erik Kellso: trumpet (1, 2, 5, 6, 7)
John Allred: trombone (1, 2, 5, 6, 7)
Evan Arntzen: tenor saxophone (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Dana Lyn: violin (9)
Eddy Malave: viola (9)
Marika Hughes: cello (9)

Recorded August 20-22, 2018, at Sear Sound, New York City, by Katherine Miller

Produced by Paul Kahn, Catherine Russell and Katherine Miller

Executive Producer: Catherine Russell

Engineered and Mixed by Katherine Miller

Mastered by Alan Silverman


With her 2016 album, Harlem On My Mind, released when she was 60 years old, Catherine Russell completed the challenging journey to the spotlight that’s the focus of the film 20 Feet From Stardom. Her Grammy nomination for the album signaled that she no longer was just the voice behind artists ranging from David Bowie to Rosanne Cash; she had arrived on her own.

With her follow-up, the vocalist moves further into the space previously dominated by Cécile McLorin Salvant. Like the younger singer, Russell mines a trove of forgotten torch songs from the early 20th century, as well as more recognizable standards. Wisely, Russell chose not just to select a mixed bag of songs; rather, Alone Together pulls together a baker’s dozen that forms a cohesive narrative with the singer as the lead character.

On a bluesy “I Wonder,” “Early In The Morning” and “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” she’s the wounded lover, unsure of whether her partner is being true. But Russell’s steely delivery, reminiscent of a young Dinah Washington, makes clear she’s not playing the victim. On the spicy “He May Be Your Dog But He’s Wearing My Collar,” recorded by Rosa Henderson in 1924, she takes things into her own hands in a scenario that Henderson passed through the decades to salty-tongued successors like Millie Jackson and Meshell Ndegeocello.

With an unerring ear for great material and a voice that sounds timeless, Russell is making up for lost time.

James Hale (DownBeat)