This lady is a legend in jazz for her vital part in developing the bop-influenced art called vocalese, which Wikipedia describes as “a style or musical genre of jazz singing wherein words are sung to melodies that were originally part of an all-instrumental composition or improvisation.” There’s not a lot of vocalese in her act these days, but she’s still a sharp, smart interpreter of standards, as well as bebop specialty material on subjects like marijuana and meatballs.
Ross still possesses a smoldering charisma and confidence, as well as an unfailingly swinging sense of rhythm. Plus, she’s a fine musical storyteller; her rendition of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” covers many more shades of emotions than most versions, passing from hopeful to wistful to rueful and back again. She can even tell a story through repetitions of the same word. When assaying Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” she replaced a line of Porter’s with a string of “Bye’s” giving each one a different heft, from the regretful to the dismissive.
One of her latter-day signature songs is the Depression-era “One Meatball” which is equal parts whimsy and biting satire, a real natural for Ross’s particular gifts. She may not toss off virtuoso vocalese like she used to, but Ross’s musicality and long-ingrained jazz instincts make her well worth seeing. Recommended.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.