There can be little doubt that Betty Bennett and Mundell Lowe are logical musical mates. Married for almost a decade, the singer and her guitarist/composer husband have worked together off and on, although for much of that time Bennett, once a name band singer, has been in semi-retirement.
Friday evening, their professional paths converged again when they played at Alfonse's in Toluca Lake. This turned out to be an instance of the right talent in the wrong setting, or perhaps simply on the wrong night of the week.
Bennett, after a trace of opening nervousness, displayed her customary combination of musicality, subtle phrasing and good taste, but this was apparent only to those sitting next to the bandstand.
Working to a crowd more intent on conversation than concentration must be an ordeal for any vocalist. Aggravating matters, Bennett leaned toward esoteric material.
Lowe, long a dependable and harmonically intelligent guitarist, played a few opening tunes with a group that did not live up to the standards of his usual sidemen (who were unavailable).