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Jazz Review : Talented La Vern Sims Is Spreading Her Wings

June 27, 1987|DON HECKMAN

There's a kind of inverted logic about the presence of singer La Vern Sims in Perino's Oak Room Bar. Sims is a relative unknown trying to establish a presence as a jazz singer, in direct contrast to Perino's reputation as one of the city's most famous restaurant names.

Thursday night Sims worked hard to prove that the still somewhat stuffy Perino's needs her energy and drive at least as much as she needs the pleasant ambiance and established image that the Oak Room Bar provides.

A last-minute change of accompanists replaced the advertised Art Hillary with La Bert Ellis, obliging Sims to spend most of her first set focusing on starting and stopping together.

Despite a few awkward moments and a sometimes intrusive drum machine, Sims managed to spread her musical wings and do a bit of soaring. Her rich, burry sound and precise sense of rhythm came together especially well on "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." After establishing the piece, she swung into several scat-sung choruses that were fresh, new and (a rarity with some jazz singers) harmonically accurate.

"The Girl From Ipanema" was performed in impeccable Portuguese (Sims is from a predominantly Portuguese section of Massachusetts), followed by a slow and easy "Teach Me Tonight" and a beautifully phrased "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good."

Sims' second set was even better, as her jazz credentials began to look as gold-plated as an American Express card. "Ain't Nobody's Business" was performed in a menacingly slow, insinuating groove, while "Sweet Georgia Brown" found Sims improvising several choruses with all the bright, brassy exuberance of a vocalized Roy Eldridge.

Will the talented, but unknown Sims bring in the younger, more vigorous audience that Perino's seems to need? Only if the word gets out that a diamond in the rough is currently reaching a high degree of luster in the Oak Room Bar.

Sims continues there Wednesdays through Saturdays, through July 11.

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