Earlier this summer Clea Bradford performed a tribute to Billie Holiday at Charlie's. The songs belonged to Billie, but the arrangements were unmistakably Clea's. Last night Bradford filled the club with tunes long associated with Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, even the Beatles. And again, each of them carried the singer's distinctive touch.
Bradford isn't content to simply sing a song; she reshapes it. "Almost Like Being in Love" was full of playful twists -- softly shaded one moment, jubilant the next. She colored " 'Round Midnight" in warm, sensuous tones before betraying perhaps a little of Morgana King's influence on a delicate, almost ethereal reading of "All Blues." Another highlight came when she dipped into "the forgotten goodies of yester-song" for a singularly sassy rendition of "Tisket a Tasket."
Throughout, Bradford was backed by three of Washington's finest jazz accompanists -- pianist Marc Cohen, bassist Dave Wundrow and drummer Hugh Walker. Occasionally the rhythm section overshadowed the singer's phrasing, but their crisp breaks and otherwise sympathetic support more than compensated for those few lapses.
Bradford will perform Monday nights at Charlie's through Sept. 21, except on Labor Day. Marc Cohen, incidentally, will be bringing his BW3 trio to One Step Down on Sundays through September.