Thursday, August 11, 2011
Yesterday I prattled on a bit about situations in which Club Café is a less-than-perfect venue. Today, let's look at the flip side of that argument. There are times, reader, when Club Café is perfect for the show that's taking place there. Like last night, for instance.
Last night's show was opened up by Nightly Standard, a local loungey jazz-soul outfit that rose from the ashes of The Metropolitans, a band that played around town a good bit a few years back. They were a good fit for the show, and played all originals, which is pretty unique for a band that plays jazz.
Unfortunately, they were drummerless for this show -- apparently just a temporary setback -- but they kept it together well. Some of the arrangements seemed like they would be heavily dependent on the drums to pin down the backbone of the song, but they went fine without. Highlight: The immensely talented bass player. Something to work on: I know it seems like a dumb thing to pick on, but the band's look didn't really gel -- and when you're dealing with a lounge-type act, I think that's something that's important. It's one of the cues we pick up on. The lead singer looked great, and had a great stage presence; the rest of the band was dressed in different degrees of business-casual -- not totally well-dressed and snazzy, but also not deliberately underdressed. Just sayin'.
The same could not be said for Lucy Woodward and her backup duo, which consisted of Michael League and Bill Laurance: They looked and sounded impeccable. While it's a small combo, the band rolled deep with instrumentation: Two stand-up basses (was one really just a backup?!), a guitar, a baritone guitar, a keyboard and an accordion. League and Laurance opened the set with an instrumental number to warm up the stage and, honestly, they could've played an entire set on their own and I wouldn't have minded.
But the main attraction was, of course, the New York-raised and L.A.-based Woodward, an energetic mix of sultry chanteuse and fun, friendly, impish girl. She belted out a set of her originals ("Babies," about, er, wanting to have babies, basically; "Ragdoll," about, er, wanting to have rough sex, basically) and covers of standards (a smoking, minimalist rendition of Nina Simone's "Be My Husband," for example).
Woodward entertained with between-songs banter, introduced her band members five or six times each, and was generally a total charmer; she took a few funny jabs at her one-time label, Atlantic, which dropped her when its president was fired.
It's hard, I think, to work in a musical idiom that's regarded as old news, and still make it feel fresh. You often end up either missing the mark, or coming off as a novelty act. To hit the mark is rare and beautiful, and often just as exciting to watch as something completely musically novel. Lucy and her band hit the mark hard.
(Big ups to photographriend Brian for the photos.)