"If the blues was whiskey, I'd stay drunk all the time," Lionel Hampton once said. Judging by this standard, "The Blues, Voices and Saxes," presented Saturday night at the Washington Ethical Society, was an utterly intoxicating musical evening.

From the first blasts of the horns to the last wailing chorus, the show delivered all of the bravado and emotional intensity that have made the blues America's most durable musical form. An informal group of Washington musicians traded fiery solos and warm good cheer in a display that turned the normally staid auditorium into a raucous, upbeat nightspot.

Encouraged by shouts from a capacity crowd, saxophonists Buck Hill and Mickey Fields unleashed raspy, jagged outbursts of sound while vocalists Ronnie Wells and Shirley Fields scatted and moaned their way through a series of blues classics. Gus Simms' piano anchored the group and bassist Tommy Cecil and drummer Jimmy Hicks provided a pulsing rhythmic accompaniment.

At the end, several musicians joined in for a rousing jam session. As each took his solo, the others yelled and clappled along, and the song proceeded to a gut-wrenching crescendo. When it was all over, the musicians and their listeners were reeling from a show that was a straight shot of some hard blues. l