Firefox just crashed—blame the two dozen open tabs on my memory-famished laptop—and thanks to the command "Restore Session," every online excerpt from Here in the Moment (Origin), the new disc by singer Gail Pettis, begins streaming simultaneously. I'm agog.
Instead of a tangled cacophony of spazzed-out drums and glossolalic singing, Pettis's sure, compact voice darts between an odd snare hit or cymbal that has been simmering a mite too long. Heard separately as intended, "Day In, Day Out" capers with grace, and, to my surprise, she makes a case that the overrated staple "Nature Boy" can be more than a sophomoric parable. I'm always a sucker for "In the Still of the Night," but Pettis transforms what is often a lumbering hymn of lust into a frisky flirtation.
When I saw Pettis sing live last November, I was struck by her ease and charm, even in up-tempo tunes. She was an adroit singer when I first heard her several years ago, but now her voice has a smoother, pearl-like quality. Pettis celebrates the release of Here in the Moment (Wed Feb 10, Tula's, 7:30 pm, $10) and returns for Valentine's Day (Sun Feb 14, Tula's, 8 pm, $15) with regular collaborators bassist Jeff Johnson and Randy Halberstadt on piano.
Another terrific singer, Karen Shivers, performs as part of the ongoing series "Jazz & Sushi" curated by Pony Boy Records (Fri Feb 5, Hiroshi's Restaurant, 7:30–10 pm, free). Unlike Pettis, who filigrees her words with a breath or scant pause, Shivers is blunt. With roots in gospel, Shivers has rafter-rattling pipes, but reserves her near-operatic arcs for when the words need to soar.
Esperanza Spalding (Thurs–Sun Feb 4–7, Jazz Alley, 7:30 pm, $26.50) completes this week's trifecta of fine singers. Despite the hype—I wince when she occasionally veers toward smooth-jazz tics—her charisma and excellent, emphatic bass chops burnish a strong, still ripening voice. I'm hoping she'll sing "I Know You Know," which is destined to be a standard (and awaits another brave singer to remold it into a ballad).
Rather than re-create the engaging jumble I heard on my laptop, get a real live jumble with Non Grata (Thurs Feb 4, Chapel Performance Space, 8 pm, $5–$15 sliding scale donation). The orchestral, all-hands-on-deck flagship ensemble of the Monktail Creative Music Concern ranges from blizzardlike free-jazz cacophony to chirping surf rock to wink-and-nod takes on every genre of music. Their goofy parade march of "Pop Goes the Weasel" at the Blue Moon back in 2004 is one of the happiest musical moments I will take to my grave.