New York song stylist Daryl Sherman grew up under the wings of such masters as pianist Dave McKenna, bandleader Artie Shaw, and singer Sylvia Syms, and she learned a fair amount along the way. On her latest disc, A Lady Must Live (After 9), surrounded by top jazz players, Sherman takes on smart arrangements of lovely old songs and clever-enough new contenders for the Great American Songbook in her sweet, husky alto. Her three-week Chicago engagement got off to a jittery start, but by last weekend she'd settled herself at the piano, opened herself to the room, and entered into a fruitful musical relationship with local bassist Jim Cox, the perfectionist with whom she'll perform all next week; she even felt enough at home to show off her big-throated vibrato and to occasionally swing the lyrics with a trumpeter's swagger. Her presentation does include some overlong patter, and she sometimes gets trapped between jazz and cabaret--nailing the notes and words but failing to ground them in convincing emotion. And when she accompanies herself at the piano she can lose focus; she'll bury the last word of a chorus as she concentrates on the imminent instrumental interlude. In general her interpretations are strongest when she leaves the keyboard and sings against the bass alone. But Sherman sure can shake up even a hoary standard, as she did with "Lover Man," locating the song's real pathos in its hidden hope rather than its mewling misery. And though, disappointingly, there's not much of a theme to her set, she does a good job of mixing familiar favorites by Gershwin, Porter, and the like with little-known treasures from them as well as their peers and successors. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, Tuesday through Thursday, 9 PM, and next Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20, 9 and 11 PM, Toulouse Cognac Bar, 2140 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-665-9071. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.