Catherine Russell is a lady born to music. Her father, Luis Russell (1902-63), was Louis Armstrong's orchestra leader beginning in the mid-1930s. Her mother, Carline Ray, is a bassist, singer, great all-around musician and a member of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the 1940s all-woman band that swung as hard as the men. "This Daughter of Jazz Is One Cool Cat," reads the headline of Nat Hentoff's profile for The Wall Street Journal.
In "We the People," lyricist Andy Razaf (1895-1973) speaks for voters: "We don't give a rap about tax-a-tion, long as legislators give the na-tion syn-co-pa-tion." "My Man's an Undertaker" was recorded by the Queen, Dinah Washington (1924-63). "Quiet Whiskey," from Wynonie Harris (1915-69), is the story of a bottle on the shelf. From the preamble, the story is told: "Things were fine 'til they took you down, opened you up and passed you around."
After Virginia Mayhew moved from San Francisco to New York in 1987, she won the Zoot Sims Scholarship at The New School, where, in her words, "I got to meet and study with the living legends of my record collection." She's been a busy saxophonist ever since. Among other gigs, she musically directs the Duke Ellington Legacy group led by Duke's grandson, Edward Kennedy Ellington II, whom she met in karate class. Mayhew has a black belt; she has stamina.
For this set, Mayhew transcribed recordings in the Mary Lou Williams collection at the Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. The research put Mayhew on the course for a new project, "Mary Lou Williams: The Next Hundred Years," from Virginia Mayhew.