Thesp-thrush Sally Kellerman has traveled a meandering vocal path over the years, venturing into a wide range of stylings, from country to experimental performance art. Her latest outing finds the statuesque, husky-voiced contralto sticking pretty close to the Great American Song Book with a few side trips into some bluesy soft rock. Kellerman’s inconsistent intonation insinuates itself throughout her 15-tune, one-hour set, but she can sure instill drama into a song, even a slight ditty like “Love Potion #9.” She is more than ably supported by her synergistic five-member backup band, led by music director and keyboardist Chris Caswell.
Slinking her way onstage in a tight evening gown, Kellerman quickly establishes her agenda for the evening. Proving there are no throwaway lyrics, she offers a humorously introspective show-opening dissection of the Motown hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Her ability to create a miniplay within the content of a song is even more apparent when she moves on to such lyrically rich standards as “A Sunday Kind of Love”; “Goody Goody”; and “Cry Me a River,” featuring a sumptuous tenor sax solo by Ed Smart. For the most part, she has selected material that complements her ability to communicate the emotional veracity within a lyric, which goes a long way toward overriding a few out-of-tune notes.
Kellerman does not possess a facile vocal instrument. Musically, she is at her best when she can wrap her sultry persona around such provocatively suggestive material as the bluesy “Daddy Doesn’t Know” and Latin-tinged ode to seduction “Damn Your Eyes.” Kellerman admirably projects the heartbreak within “Performer,” given an infectious bossa nova flavor by Caswell. The high point of Kellerman’s vocal survey of the love wars is the comically seductive rock ballad “Don’t You Feel My Leg.”