It was evident from the opening instrumental number last night at Charlie's that more was in the offing than a rehash of bossa nova standards by The Girl From Ipanema. Indeed, Astrud Gilberto's accompanists set standards in that one up-tempo piece that were upheld throughout the set even if, for most of it, they supported the vocalist rather than upstaged her. Alto saxophonist Steve Slagle is given to casting off conventional rules and blowing free over the Latin pulse, a refreshing updating of the idiom. The rhythm section of pianist Jill Goldstein, electric bassist Marcello Gilberto, and drummer Duduca Fonseca were the fire beneath the saxist's boiling mix of Latin beat and other ingredients.
Gilberto's ballads, in both English and her native Portuguese, were soft and fragile and had little jazz feeling, but when she stepped up the pace, lyrics and scat tumbled over each other and darted in and out of Slagle's lines.
"Love Is Monkey See Monkey Do" was an especially successful integration of voice and instruments and allowed ample space for Slagle to cook and for Marcello Gilberto to pluck some astringent choked notes from his Fender bass. "In the Mood" displayed the singer's flair for vocalese as her voice walked the boogie bass in Portuguese.
Gilberto and company stay through Sunday.