In Stanley Dance's recently published oral history, "The World of Count Basie," Helen Humes demurs from a notion some hold about her: "I've always liked pretty songs, torch songs . . . but people have always tried to make me a blues singer."
At Charlie's last night the implications of that self-assessment proved only partly valid as the great vocalist delivered a repertoire of pop standards of yesteryear, jazz evergreens and a closing blues.
"More Than You Know" was sultry and provocative, "Sometimes I'm Happy" playfully teasing, and "Ain't Nobody's Business" a firm if saucy assertion of independence.
Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'" was the essence of swing as Humes lagged behind, then long-stepped up to the beat.
Her characteristically light voice turned rough as she belted out the double entendre "You Can Take My Man But You Can't Keep Him Long." Pianist Norman Simmons walked the bridge on this one with appropriately stomping bass and a tremolo treble.
Throughout, Steve Novasel's bass was big-toned and sure, Bob Jones' drums a steady floor.
Helen Humes stays through Sunday with trio, dividing the bill with the club's namesake, guitarist Charlie Byrd, on the weekend.