It doesn't take long to name the great brother-and-sister musical teams. The Cowboy Junkies include one set of musical siblings. There are also Richard and Karen Carpenter, and then things go downhill quickly to Donny and Marie Osmond.
More credit, then, to D.C. area natives Nicki and Ira Gonzalez. The sibling songwriting team first entered the local scene 10 years ago in a nine-piece funk band called the Magic Pocket Company. The group, which mixed its original songs with funk and R&B classics, lasted about two years.
Nicki reentered the spotlight when a local coffeehouse hosted a songwriting competition, the prize being eight hours of free time in a recording studio. Leading an acoustic trio, she won and used the prize to create a demo. Next, she expanded her repertoire -- this time in a jazzy direction -- and returned to gigging.
Nicki Gonzalez, solo act, became a regular draw at Felix in Adams Morgan until 1998, when Ira came aboard and the Nicki Gonzalez Band was born. The next year, the band's eponymous debut arrived, featuring the three songs with which she won the songwriting competition and six other originals. In December 2002, the band released its second album, "Spilt Milk," and The Post's Mike Joyce called it "nearly everything an album simultaneously aimed at pop and jazz audiences should be but seldom is: smart, tuneful and mercifully free of pop-jazz cliches."
As with much of the best contemporary music, the band's sound is hard to pigeonhole as it skillfully jumps genres, touching on pop, jazz, Latin, soul, blues and world beat accents. You can hear short samples from all nine "Spilt Milk" tracks at the band's Web site, www.ngband.com.
Gonzales even keeps her peers guessing. In 1999, she won the Washington Area Music Association Wammie award for Latin vocalist, then took top honors for jazz vocalist in 2002 and 2004. The full band was recognized as best jazz group in 2001.
The group has performed at some prestigious area gigs, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. Still, it's not hard to imagine that the Nicki Gonzalez Band is at its best in a comfy local joint like Whitlow's.
-- MARIANNE MEYER
Whitlow's is at 2854 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. The cover charge is $5. For more information, call 703-276-9693 or visit www.whitlows.com.
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