The level of activity was a bit high last night at Blues Alley. A group of people exchanged noisy greetings and conversation. A man chatted with the bartender. And across the room, someone tried vainly to relight the candle at his table.

The reason for all these mundane goings-on was the eminently forgettable performance of vocalist Freddy Cole. Cole (who will be appearing through Sunday) was not a bad singer by any means, nor was his stage presence obnoxious. The problem was that his performance was not particularly anything.

He ambled through a selection of songs that ranged from traditional jazz to contemporary pop. His smooth voice glided effortlessly over the songs and, in the process, glossed over any nuances of character or melody. His version of Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss" was a nifty piece of musical understatement -- in fact, it managed to understate the composer's subtle wit to the point that it was hardly there.

Throughout, Cole was backed by a somnolent trio that approached each arrangement with all of the skill and commitment of a cocktail-lounge band. This listless accompaniment, when added to Cole's lackadaisical approach, made for a truly aimless listening experience.