Jeanie Bryson arrived on the scene a few years ago to a chorus of critical fanfare, some of it generated by her bloodlines--she is the daughter of bebop progenitor Dizzy Gillespie--and much of it stemming from the New York critics' sincere appreciation of her unprepossessing and unspectacular vocal style. Bryson herself sings without fanfare, forsaking scat and other pyrotechnics for mood and texture. I confess, though, that Bryson's first two CDs did little to move me. She seemed intent on exploring her musical genealogy with a grab bag of pop standards, jazz classics, the occasional bluesy ballad, and bossa novas of varied tempos--the modern jazz singer's repertoire--but most of this material did little more than exhibit her breathy alto or exploit the dreamlike trance that she can elicit from (or transfer to) a song. Then, inspired by the fact that her voice and style have more than a touch of Peggy Lee's well-documented vocal insouciance, Bryson made her third album, Some Cats Know (Telarc), a tribute to the ageless pop icon. She couldn't have made a better choice. Lee's repertoire, much of which she wrote herself, plays to the sultry indolence of her voice and the smoldering inferno implicit in her phrasing. Not surprisingly, these songs heighten those same elements in Bryson's style; and while she doesn't really imitate Lee's singing, Bryson clearly knows how to set that velvet-lined steel trap with which Lee has ensnared listeners for decades. Such subtleties, as well as Bryson's soft-focus stylings, may not fare well in front of the Green Mill's large and exuberant weekend crowds. My advice: arrive early enough to get a seat down front, where the listening occurs. Friday, 9 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 878-5552.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Matthew Rolston.