Joe's Pub, April 24, 2007, late show
by David Sprague
April 30, 2007
Band: Anjani Thomas, Steve Gregory, Ron Suffredini, Bryan Brock, Dominique Plaisant. Reviewed April 24, 2007, late show.
Anjani Thomas has been something of a cult favorite for the past decade or so, a beckoning vocalist with a jazzy sensibility and a finely wrought poetic sense -- the latter no doubt nourished by her longtime companion Leonard Cohen, who presented this perf and co-wrote the 10 songs included on her latest release, Blue Alert.
The majority of the crowd was clearly there to catch at least a glimpse of Cohen, who obliged early on by taking the stage to introduce his protege -- and to tweak Sony with a jibe about the initial release of the freshly reissued Blue Alert being "a vast covert operation."
Anjani staked out the stage in her own right quickly enough, however, picking up the sultry thread of "Innermost Door" -- a simmering stew of soul and blues reminiscent of Ray Charles' more introspective moments -- and weaving it neatly through a series of songs that hung hazily in the air, sepia-toned and tantalizingly out of reach.
Accompanied by a restrained combo that was anchored by guitarist Steve Gregory, Thomas deftly fleshed out songs that she'd recorded alone on piano. She's better suited to quiet, furtive numbers -- like the title track of "Blue Alert" -- than to the more spry material she aired here, which erred on the side of conventionality.
Straightforwardness alone wasn't really a problem, as borne out by the singer's performance of "The Mist," a song she introduced by way of saying Cohen had written it while still in his teens -- a chronology that would make sense, since it'd be easy to imagine it performed by a chilled-out Perry Como.
Cohen emerged from the wings to duet with Anjani on a pair of songs that evinced a chemistry extending beyond affection or lust. With eyes locked and voices commingling meltingly, they seemed intent on -- and capable of -- conjuring a perpetual state of bliss.