I won’t claim to know much more about Zee now than I did before I went to her concert. I knew she hailed from Malyasia and that she owned one of those impossibly warm voices, like Norah Jones had stepped away from her piano and fell headlong into a guitar (and sometimes a ukulele). I learned in short order that Zee sounds just as good in the flesh and seated a few rows back from the stage as she does coming out my computer speakers. And, you know, it’s good to come across that rare singer who sounds like she lives in the world of jazz few feel they know, only she’s wont to present herself as a singer-songwriter. C’mon, a geet, a bass and a quiet sometimes-brushing drummer? Classic jazz trio, right there. She even throws in some light scat now and again. Jazz singers love to use it as another way of tapping into their instrument but pop singers? Not so much. Ah, she toes the line, that Zee. Perfectly so.
The diminutive singer was one of the most self-effacing and conversational in recent memory, too, proving she could hold her own with her front row would-be hecklers and her grumbling bass player, then move right on to sharing stories about the songs she’d written. As for the sleepy Sunday evening show, it wore plenty well. Those who took it upon themselves to see the wee band (made up of a “bass breaker, a beat breaker and a potential heartbreaker”) heard close to everything they wanted to. This meant “Bitter Heart” was there, as was “Honey Bee” (the singer’s personal favorite) and even a pretty fantastic cover of Interpol’s “Slow Hands.”
Turning The Clash’s “I Fought The Law” into a sing-a-long closer may not have been the best idea in the (song)book, as the crowd had been too mellowed into submission to do a very good job of things but, well, can you blame them? The night was a musical electric blanket at the onset of fall, and we were plenty cozy.
And it just has to go down in writing that the Murray Theater, when propped up and displayed in the right kind of light, sounds like the hallowed halls of a church. The sound was impeccable. Maybe there is something to be said for throwing up a few folding chairs and attracting an audience that actually knows how to behave.