The Jazz Bakery’s annual fundraising concert took a somewhat different tack this year. Titled “Samba to Soul,” the event -- which took place Sunday night at the Ford Amphitheatre -- was a nearly all-vocal presentation, featuring singers Andy Bey, Luciana Souza and Mose Allison.
One could hardly have asked for a better representative of the significance of the Bakery and the music it presents than Bey. Performing solo, with his own minimalist but extremely potent piano accompaniment, he rendered a group of standard tunes in a superlative example of contemporary jazz vocalizing.
In each number, he not only brought extraordinary musicality to his interpretations via a vocal range soaring from resonant low notes to airy head tones, he also found the emotional heart of the lyrics: the dark irony of “Sophisticated Lady,” the poignancy of “Little Girl Blue” and “But Not for Me,” the sweet, swinging sadness of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”
He wrapped it all up with an encore that defined what scat should be (but too rarely is) by darting through a witty, imaginative set of bebop blues choruses.
Souza and guitarist Romero Lubambo are one of the most musically fascinating duos of recent memory. Souza’s mobile voice and Lubambo’s stunning acoustic guitar work (with its complex rhythmic strumming and arching single line solos) brought life and vigor to a program reaching from “So Danco Samba” to a lovely performance of Victor Young’s “Beautiful Love.” (The duo opens a five-night run tonight at the Jazz Bakery.)
Mose Allison, working with bassist Tom Warrington, romped through a set of his hits -- “If You’re Going to the City,” “Molecular Structure,” “Everybody Cryin’ Mercy” and “I Don’t Want Much” among them -- in his inimitable style. But the most compelling number in his set was an offbeat, darkly intimate rendering of Jimmie Davis’ classic “You Are My Sunshine.”
The only purely instrumental passages of the evening came in the ebullient playing of the Hour Trio, a talented young ensemble consisting of pianist Austin Peralta, 14, bassist Tigran Nersissian, 21, and drummer Jake Bloch, 16. Their presence underscored the Bakery’s openness to emerging talent, while at the same time emphasizing the venue’s primary dedication to instrumental jazz.