Cathie Rae is taking gigs where she can

Cathie Rae: following her instincts. Picture: Contributed
Cathie Rae: following her instincts. Picture: Contributed
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Singer Cathie Rae is letting the cats out. A daughter of the Rae jazz dynasty and director of the Scottish Jazz Federation (SJF), Rae is about to hit the road with Cat’s Club, a choice bunch of Scottish jazz musicians with whom she’s just released an album, Lucky (Thick Skinned Productions).

Over the next couple of months, Cat’s Club will be let loose in a diverting variety of venues, from Portmahomack to Soho.

The band’s gig schedule takes in the former in Easter Ross then Wick in September, while October sees them head south for engagements including a UK album launch at Pizza Express, Soho, with further Scottish concerts including Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall on 31 October.

“It’s really hard these days to get a series of gigs: you have to take what you can get and try and get as many consecutive days as you can,” says Rae, who, wearing her SJF hat, is all too aware of the current dearth of playing (and paying) opportunities for working jazz musicians.

Lucky features an impressive line-up, all of whom Rae has known and played with for some time – Paul Harrison on piano and Hammond organ, guitarist Graeme Stephen, bassist Mario Caribe and drummer Stu Brown. On tour, however, guitarist Phil Robson will sit in for Stephen at Portmahomack – which should prove a novel experience for the Kent-based player, she laughs.

Taking the drum stool for the tour is Scottish young Jazz Musician of the Year, Corrie Dick – a coincidence, Rae stresses, mindful that the SFA she works for also runs the competition, although she wasn’t involved in judging. “Corrie was a last-minute choice for the tour, and he’s an amazing drummer.” (This writer agrees, having recently heard him play with the Phil Bancroft Quintet.)

The album showcases an engaging mix of songs and styles, from the shimmers of electronica that introduce Rae’s own beaty Since Forever and La Vie En Rose as you may not have heard it before, to the swirly Hammond-powered swing of It All Comes Back and the robust Humdrum Blues. The song choice, says Rae, reflects the credo she inherited from her double-bassist father, Ronnie: “Always be yourself and don’t go with any trends.”

In the jazz-centred Rae household, Cathy grew up absorbing such jazz voices as Carmen McRae, Shirley Horn and Frank Sinatra. She occasionally sneaked off to listen to David Bowie albums, too, although this was considered tantamount to heresy.

She hopes the new album offers something for everyone, but her message for young, aspiring musicians remains, “Don’t be led.”

Cat’s Club play Carnegie Hall, Portmahomack, on 7 September and Lyth Arts Centre, Wick, on 8 September. See