They stand there, father and daughter, singing a love song like Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. As they reach the end of Neil Diamond's "You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore," the Blues Alley audience erupts in wild applause, asking for more.
It's Billy and Gina Eckstine, another in the list of famous-father-and-unknown-daughter singing teams that once included Pat and Debby Boone, Cab and Chris Calloway, Frank and Nancy Sinatra.
Eckstine, 66, veteran of 47 years in show business, and his 20-year-old daughter have been performing together for little more than a year. The response, they say, has been good.
"I want to get her started," he says. "We've played hotels, clubs, festivals, open-air areas. We've been to London. I want her to learn how to program herself in all kinds of situations. So when she gets out there on her own, she'll know what to do."
Until 18 months ago, he hadn't heard his daughter sing more than a few bars. "I was always on the road," he explains. "But one night I heard her at a workshop at Donte's in North Hollywood and she knocked me out."
She had studied voice for five years with Earl Lee and for a year with Phil Moore, who's coached some of the best in the business, including Sinatra. For Moore, Gina had to learn two songs a week and perform four times a year with the rest of the class. It was her idea to go on the road with her father.
"Gina wants to make it herself," Eckstine says. "The other was a workshop, this is college."
At a willowy 5-feet-9, Gina cuts a striking figure on stage. She's a strong, clear soprano, equally at home with older songs like "Willow Weep for Me" and new ditties like "Love Will Find a Way."
Like Nat Cole's daughter, Natalie, Gina wants to make her own name with new material. "I want to do some recording, go into rhythm & blues and the pop field," she says.
Eckstine remembers well the scuffle he had breaking into the music business.
It started right here in Washington. He'd moved from his native Pittsburgh to live with relatives and attend Armstrong High School.
In 1934, he won a talent contest at the Howard Theater imitating Cab Calloway. Amateur contests were popular then, and Eckstine won so many that finally he was hired at a club to keep him from winning. Eventually he went into Earl Hines' band and had his first hit record, "Jelly, Jelly."
He became so big that he went out as a solo act for a while. Then in 1944 he decided to put together the first modern jazz orchestra. The result was what is now called the legendary Billy Eckstine Big Band," which at one time or another included Dizzy Gilespie, Charlie Parker, Mies Davis, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Gene Ammons, Sarah Vaughn and Fats Navarro.
"In those days the only way for a black singer to project himself was to do it in front of a big band," he recalls. "I had the chance to front a band that George Hudson in St. Louis had. But I wanted to do a more modern thing. I knew Bird and Diz from the Hines band. So we got it together. We were the young rebels of the time."
In the '50s, Mr. B, as he's affectionately known, became more of a popular figure, a fashion figure, a balladeer, with his recordings of "Cottage for Sale," "Everything I Have Is Yourss" "My Foolish Heart" and "I Apologize."
He spawned a whole set of singers -- Earl Coleman, Johnny Hartman, Arthur Prysock, Kenneth Hagood (he cals them "my illegitimate sons") -- who sang like the master in a deep burgundy-like baritone.
Eckstein isn't sure how much longer he and Gina will appear as a team. "I'm ready to cut her loose tomorrow," he laughs. "No, not really. I tease her all the time. She knows I'm proud of her."
"I want her to have a little taste of the whole performing experience and to stay away from labels. I have the firm belief that you don't put labels on music. I was nurtured in jazz, but I sing ballads, too. We were walking back to the hotel last night and I told her how special a jazz audience is.
"There was a guy who said he got married on 'I apologize.' I looked at the woman with him and she looked kind of young. He picked up on it right away and said, 'Oh no, the other one was my wife. Not this one.'"