June 22, 2004
When bluegrass group Jeff and Vida cancelled, jazz vocalist Ingrid Lucia was called an hour before showtime to perform at d.b.a Tuesday night. She brought with her guitarist Bert Cotton, drummer/vocalist Gerald French, and bassist Jesse Boyd.
Lucia's voice had a Billie Holliday shine, but she wasn't afraid to leave tradition behind. She dropped out of her voice's trance-inducing beauty to find a lower register where she could add splashes of personality and humor. She did well when she gave her voice a cha-cha swagger on her Latin-tinged numbers. According to Cotton, Lucia is different from other jazz vocalists because she is roots-oriented and likely to pull out a Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, or Gene Autry cover.
Lucia performed standards, covers and originals. She played slow romantic ballads, and a highlight was a mid-tempo blues shuffler replete with hooks. It was refreshing to hear a woman's beautiful voice tackle a blues structure instead of an old man who pushed out yelps and scraggly whines. Lucia also tackled upbeat, up-tempo swingers perfect for arm-throwing finger snapping.
Cotton's smooth and light jazz guitar tones guarded the sensitive sensibility of the slower numbers, while his solos during the faster songs added a nice kick. French, nephew of Donna's drummer Bob French, went from fast to slow with style and skill. His background vocals and harmonies with Lucia gave the songs validity. It's much easier to believe in a song when two people are in on it instead of just one. Near the end of the first set, Lucia took a break and the band broke into an enjoyable cover of Dr. John's "Junko Partner," with French singing and dedicating the song to Cotton.
Lucia warned the crowd of the depressing nature of Elvis Costello's "Almost Blue" before she launched into it. She wasn't wrong. Her gender-bent lyrics: "There's a boy here and he's almost you/Almost/All the things that your eyes once promised/I see in his too." Her version was smoldering and haunting, but still check out Costello's track.
There was a mid-sized crowd for Lucia, and people clapped and enjoyed her performance. There was a relaxed vibe in the room. Lucia engaged the audience well with her small talk in between songs. I forgot to mention she was dressed in a stunning strapless red dress. I have no problem with appearance being important for female jazz vocalists.
It was a good set. Lucia's new CD, "Almost Blue," is out now.