With a voice that wavers delightfully between a husky alto to a cool contralto, Audrey Shakir provides an unusual third “horn” to whatever saxophone Walter Blanding, Jr. chooses and to Marcus Printup’s trumpet.
The frontline’s harmonic blend was showcased brilliantly on “Green Dolphin Street,” where Shakir, with expressive dexterity, matched Blanding’s luscious tenor while settling comfortably between pianist Jack Glottman’s comps and Printup’s fleet passages of melody.
Even more enticing was her well-pitched and rhythmically hip scatting, particularly on Horace Silver’s “Silver Serenade.” And to let the audience at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola recently in the heart of Manhattan get a glimpse of her musical agility, she and Blanding, who is her son, easily traversed the tricky intervals and tempo of Monk’s “Evidence.”
During his solo on the latter tune, Glottman displayed a facile but laidback style, dropping ancient fragments from such compositions as “Dinah,” written years before he arrived on the set.
Shakir demonstrated her finesse on a lovely but obscure ballad “You’re a Joy,” once more attacking a song with an intuitive feel for the lyrics and the composition’s opaque contour.
The band took a break when Blanding offered a lilting solo of Duke Ellington’s “A Single Petal of a Rose.” There were moments of circular breathing and breathtaking beauty as he worked the full landscape of his horn, from sassy bottom notes to an occasional squeal at the end of chromatic run.
The final unannounced tune featured Willie Jones, III on drums, and the blues texture was just what he needed to express a galloping swish of sound, joining bassist Matt Rybicki in a pulsating foundation to propel the trio upfront to a near-frantic summation.
Both Printup and Blanding, from their tenure in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, are familiar cronies and this was apparent throughout their evening of exchanges, in the same way that Blanding, in a family sense, knew instinctively where Shakir was going with phrase.
As Jean and Doug Carn once sang, the family is strong, “we’ve learned to live together,” and this could be a theme song for Blanding & Family.