Almost 18 years have passed since Louis and Monique Aldebert, having moved to Los Angeles, developed their unique vocal duo sound and built their bilingual backlog of original songs.
At Alfonse's Thursday evening they offered evidence that although mass popularity has eluded them, they have not compromised. Monique, to whom the years have been kind, still has the irresistible smile, the red hair, the very feminine charm and a voice that sounds particularly effective when her husband backs her up from the piano with hummed tones, or more often unison and harmony vocals.
It is in songs like their own "Without a Friend" that this collaboration works best. Monique's solo numbers, though pleasant, didn't have the impact to quiet a slightly noisy room, and her decision to cross the English Channel for "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" was out of character. But when she and Louis joined voices on two Jobim numbers--"One Note Samba" in French, "Waters of March" in English and French--the group came alive, aided in no small measure by an exceptional drummer, Jack Le Compte, and a guest appearance by the hard swinging tenor saxophonist Gordon Brisker.
The Aldeberts have a third language, le scat hot, which they put to delightful use in another of their own pieces, "Mexican Waltz." They lean to soft consonants, with none of the sibilants that sometimes lend an irritating monotony to wordless jazz.
Louis Aldebert has developed into a first-rate post bop pianist. His two opening numbers, with Jack Grevet on bass and Le Compte on drums, set a solid groove despite the light sound of Grevet's electric bass.
In effect, the Aldeberts are the Gallic Jackie and Roy, though they have yet to match their track record of countless albums and cross-country tours. That they haven't traveled much is their misfortune; that Los Angeles remains their pied-a-terre is our good luck.