Courtesy of Stefan Falke

With a smooth yet powerful tone, jazz singer Catherine Russell’s voice confidently shines through in any melody she performs. On Friday, Russell will perform at the Morse Recital Hall as part of the Yale School of Music’s Ellington Jazz Series.

Russell is a prominent American jazz singer, who has performed all over the world and with musicians including David Bowie and Cyndi Lauper. She received a Grammy Award in 2012 for her appearance on the soundtrack album for the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.”

“Catherine Russell’s musical style is based on an innate sense of swing, the subtle nuances of the way she approaches and places a note, her facile way of interpreting a lyric and telling a story,” said Paul Kahn, Russell’s manager. “She is a rhythmic vocalist with excellent pitch and diction, but above all, an ability to be herself and open her heart to an audience.”

Russell will perform songs primarily from the first half of the 20th century. This includes songs from the swing era of the 1930s and 40s and rhythm and blues songs of the 1940s and 50s.

Attendees will also hear blues tunes from the 1920s that honor women, sung in the style of the influential jazz singer Bessie Smith.

Matt Munisteri, a guitarist, has accompanied Russell for thirteen years.

Munisteri said that the repertoire Russell will perform is from “a jazz era that embraced traditional jazz’s collective improvisations, small group swing, bebop harmonies and soloists, and early electric blues. It’s alive and all interconnected when we play it.”

Russell also explained that she organizes her programs in a way that takes her listeners on a musical journey with her band.

“As in life things change continually, our moods change many times in one day,” Russell said. “So at the end of our musical journey together, being the show, maybe we know each other a little better. I like to have fun! The audience are all guests in my ‘home’ and I want to make them feel welcome.”

Instead of following a traditional tour schedule with a determined beginning and end, Russell and her band are always performing. They travel all the time, putting on shows across the country and around the world.

Russell’s band includes Munisteri, bassist Tal Ronen and varying pianists.

“It’s a lot of groove to come out of a small drumless band, and Catherine’s phrasing is so strong that she’s part of the rhythm section. Everyone contributes,” Munisteri said.

Thomas Duffy, the artistic director of the Ellington Jazz Series, explained that it “exists to bring to Yale both jazz legends and the new generation of artists.”

Artists who appear in the series are interviewed by the Oral History of American Music program. Their stories become part of Yale’s archival treasures. Some recently featured artists include Louis Hayes, The Ignacio Berroa Trio, Ahmad Jamal and Lou Donaldson.

Konrad Padszkudzki, the pianist for Friday’s concert, said he is excited to play with Russell.

“Catherine’s singing is as good as it gets,” Padszkudzki said. “No one else seems to sing a melody quite the way she does. I’m talking about vibe, swagger, inflection, genuine individual interpretation, while staying completely true to the music and the lyrics. Most of all it’s so swingin’. Catherine is the real deal.”

The Ellington Jazz Series began in 1972.

Marisol Carty |

Marisol Carty currently serves as Arts Editor. She previously covered Music. She is a junior double majoring in Economics and Philosophy.