Nothing cuts into attendance figures at an amphitheater quite like an official thunderstorm watch. But even threatening clouds at Wolf Trap last night couldn't put a damper on the performance by Cleo Laine and her husband, John Dankworth.
The first half of the program featured Dankworth and his quartet, whom the leader jokingly referred to as "Cleo Laine's Accoutrements." They soon proved their worth. On his composition "Kite Flight," Dankworth explored the lyrical capabilities of the soprano sax before taking on the more strident and familiar tone of the instrument whenever the kite caught a sudden gust of wind. Less visual, but equally pleasing was an oddly syncopated and sensuous rendition of "Mood Indigo.
As if to chase the clouds away, Laine began with a sunny rendition of "it Might as Well Be Spring," measuring out the chorus note for note with her husband on alto sax.She then turned sassy on two lyrics by Johnny Mercer, both of them well suited to her throaty contralto and impeccable phrasing.
A strangely affecting interlude of poems put to music followed. Although the poems (written by such kindred spirits as Shakespeare and Spike Milligan) were a motley lot, Laine interpreted them beautifully, allowing equal room for sentiment and laughter. While some of the material she later performed wasn't worthy of her time or talent, the singer's repertoire now focuses almost exclusively on her considerable strengths.