Lucky for us, then, that instead, we got an inspired and joyful set from a high-grade local Brazilian jazz group.
It’s the jazz, not the band, that’s Brazilian. Named for singer and front woman Lynn Veronneau, the band on this night consists of two Quebecois, Veronneau and bassist Karine Chapdelaine; two Englishmen, Avis and violinist Dave Kline; and Brazilian American drummer Lucas Ashby.
Even if none of the musicians is straight out of Rio de Janeiro, certainly nobody was second-guessing their credentials once a bouncy rendition of the samba classic “É Luxo Só” got underway. Veronneau sang the Portuguese — and the French and English of the set’s remainder — in a silken alto voice that lingered behind the beat. Kline added light fills after each line. After a subtler improv from Avis, the violinist let loose with a deft solo that showed the breadth of his technique while also throttling up on the samba groove.
Kline was clearly the night’s star soloist. He strutted stuff ranging from two ripping blues choruses on Avis’s feature “Bad Boy” to a fine finger-plucked improv on a bossa-fied version of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain.” Chapdelaine, however — performing with Veronneau for the first time — was a secret weapon. Her two solos, on the opening “Song of Love” and the closing “Mas Que Nada,” were both virtuoso turns, while they lasted, that added surprising boosts of creative energy to the music.
Excellent as the performance was, a sizable amount of the night’s good vibes came from simply being back at Blues Alley. The legendary room’s brown brick walls and iconic logo were as warm and welcoming as ever. It was different, to be sure: not only were the tables fewer and farther between, but the instruments and framed photographs that long covered the walls were absent. One could ignore the changes, though, and still feel Blues Alley’s signature history and intimacy.
One difference was harder to overlook: noise. In the absence of live music, we’ve forgotten how to behave during it, and spectators were openly and sometimes loudly chatting throughout the set. Perhaps related, the familiar pre-show “quiet, please” announcement was also missing.
Blues Alley is back, but with baby steps. We’ll get there.