Whatever it is that Rickie Lee Jones is doing, it's the best thing to emerge from the muscial doldrums in months.

Call it alleycat rock, this slinking, yowling blues-with-a-backbeat; or swank rock, or street-corner rock. It's a whole new breed, out of Billy Holiday by Chuck Berry. It reeks of R&B, and it is the essence of summertime in the city.

If you have not heard of Rickie Lee Jones - that is, if you don't watch "Saturday Night Live" and do listen to a radio station that somehow hasn't programmed "Chuck E.'s in Love"-you ought to try to claw your way into the Cellar Door tonight to recharge your soul.

Jones is a sturdy earthy woman with a face that's a cross between Mick Jagger and Lauren Bacall and long straight hair that her trademark red beret cannot control. She mixes old blues and scat and raunchy rock 'n' roll into a sly, elbow-to-the-ribs posture. Her stage presence is feline, experience, sidelong - alleycat rock.

She is reminiscent at times of Laura Nyro, yet she has escaped Nyro's ethereal melancholy. If Tom Waits were a woman, and didn't hunch down into his music so far, he'd be Rickie Lee Jones.

Although the contagious strut of her music is obvious on her debut album, "Rickie Lee Jones" (up to the No. 19 slot after only six weeks out), it is irresistible in live performance. Small wonder that Warner Bros. snapped her up after only a handful of appearances in Los Angeles last year.

Jones is being backed on this first tour by the most powerful band since Carlene Carter toured with the Rumour. Among Jones' band are three of the country's finest studio musicians: Neil Larsen on keyboards, David Sanborn on saxophone and Buzz Feiten on guitar. (Jones herself plays no mean Gibson on occasion.)

Th high energy of the show was set up by a slow, slinky openint-the old blues torcher, "Something Cool." At the other end, for an encore, the band lunged through "No Next Time" like John Belushi in a samurai shuffle.

The only regret is that to see Jones your have to sit through the mindless, (early George) Carlin drug humor of Sam Diego, "a legend in his own mind," as the club's announcer put it.