Just as jazz horn players have traditionally sought the expressiveness of the human voice, so in turn singers have reassessed the possibilities of their own instrument. Jamie Broumas, in her first Blues Alley engagement last night, offered an opening set of bebop-based numbers, each of which mixed words and nonsense syllables so thoroughly that the effect was often that of voice in close interplay with horn and, now and then, of two horns trading off licks.
Three instrumentals at the beginning established the respectable credentials of Broumas' rhythm section, and when she joined them the rapport was tight. The open-field-running of pianist Peter Edelman and the sliding pitches of bassist Pepe Gonzales foreshadowed the team work of the full quartet. Winard Harper's drums rose and fell with the inflections of the singer, and his sense of time was one with hers.
Some numbers were done as torch songs with the voice drifting from speech into breathy saxophone-like phrases, "Moonlight in Vermont" being an especially effective example. In "There Will Never Be Another You" high notes were held as a trumpet might and machine-gun scat was fired off in the manner of drum rim shots. Broumas' virtuosity was complemented by many changes of mood, from the effervescent joy of "Lady Be Good" to the pensive "When a Love Affair Is Over."