Ruth Price represents the ideal blend of jazz vocalist and cabaret singer. She is a compact, black-haired, bright-eyed woman with a rare taste for the arcane melody and the literate lyric, which she interprets in a light, buoyant jazz soprano on the upbeats and with poignant conviction on the ballads.
Heard Sunday at the Vine St. Bar & Grill (to which she will return Oct. 5), she displayed the same avoidance of the banal, the same lithe body movements, the same elfin charm that have been her trademark since the early days of Shelly's Manne Hole.
She opened with "Strange Music," assuring us that this indicated the shape of songs to come. What followed, though, was strange--not in the sense of weird, but merely unfamiliar, or at least unhackneyed: "Footprints" by Gene Lees and Rick Wilkins, "The Shining Sea" by Peggy Lee and Johnny Mandel, a waltz called "Have a Heart" by Johnny Mercer and Gene di Novi and Oscar Levant's "Blame It on My Youth."
She was well backed by George Jaffeney, piano; Tony Dumas, bass, and Ralph Penland, drums. Even their trio warm-up material was unconventional: Jaffeney played John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" as a relaxed bossa nova.
Everybody with an ear for quality sound deserves to hear Price at least once.