Don’t be surprised if someday the musicians union puts out a Wanted! poster on Tuck and Patti. Without any hired hands on deck behind them, this duo puts out enough energy and pizzazz to carry an entire show — perhaps more than enough, as their lengthy Royce Hall gig Saturday night indicated.
Guitarist Tuck Andress came from a rock ‘n’ roll base while his wife, singer Patti Cathcart, was influenced by gospel. Yet the two found common ground in a fluid, often funky jazz-grounded style, a ’90s equivalent of another husband-wife, guitar-vocal team, Les Paul and Mary Ford. They have three albums out on Windham Hill Jazz, with a fourth due this year.
Musically, what you hear on the recordings is basically what you hear live — an eclectic mix of originals, standards, pop hits, Brazilian tunes and other diversions. Andress is a hard-working technician with a rounded, mellow touch, some of the Les Paul melodic feeling and a good, strong yen for rhythmic funk. Cathcart’s voice is a sultry, dusky-toned cross between Sade and Sarah Vaughan, with a bit of regal Jessye Norman thrown in.
The “something extra” that comes through live is Cathcart’s exuberance, her earth mother presence, and the ability to make us believe that sometimes she’ll sing about anything that crosses her mind — e.g., her soliloquy on a pair of ill-fitting shoes.
Mostly, Andress creates the rhythmic energy, and Cathcart feeds off it, creating synergy lasting more than two uninterrupted hours. Yet a slightly goofy Andress persona occasionally surfaced in the long, loopy spoken intro to his powerful solo funk version of “Man in the Mirror,” and a clever rap break in which he pitched their albums.
Paul Ubana Jones — Nigerian-born, educated in England and now living in New Zealand — turned in a strong opening set of husky vocals and chugging, complex guitar. When he gets into a deep groove, be it quasi-raga or smokin’ boogie blues, he really digs into it, thromping away on the low strings. Elsewhere, he exploited striking amplified harmonics.
He also writes interesting material based on his experiences in England, and had the good taste to resurrect Gil Scott-Heron’s still-pertinent “Home Is Where the Hatred Is.”