Janis Siegel has not transferred out of Manhattan. She has simply found a productive way to spend her spare time, teamed with the protean pianist Fred Hersch. To follow up their just released album, they took a two-night At My Place gig, with results that indicate a promising future for the partnership.
Siegel does not want to be identified as a jazz singer, and rightly so, since her first show Tuesday drew from many sources. On certain tunes such as Todd Rundgren's "Pretending to Care" and the old Miriam Makeba hit "Love Tastes Like Strawberries," her voice had a folksy charm, as if she were playing Patti with Hersch as a pianistic counterpart of Tuck.
What Siegel avoids is as significant as what she includes: Unlike several newly popular singers, she eschews mannerisms, using melisma very little, scatting only occasionally, and showing respect for the melodies.
Her pure sound and easy range were sensitively backed by Hersch, and on some numbers also by the superlative bassist Tony Dumas. Her mood swings were a joy as she made a quantum leap from a trivial old ditty, "Rhythm in My Nursery Rhymes," to a Brazilian setting in Djavan's "Agua."