A long about the time I became enchanted with the unique stylings of Lake Street Dive as hatched during the quartet’s days at New England Conservatory inside the tiny 105-seat basement club that is the Lizard Lounge, I realized there was another side to the phenomenal voice of lead singer Rachael Price. In fact, as a recording artist then, it was her only side. After signing a deal in 2006 with Claire Vision Productions to record jazz standards, Price released two beauties — “The Good Hours” and “Dedicated To You” — before Lake Street Dive’s debut album “Promises, Promises,” saw the light of day.
While her virtuoso jazz singing informed my critical opinion on her otherworldly alto, having led me more than once to write that Price possesses the best voice in modern popular music, the contract became a deterrent to her (and Lake Street Dive), causing a protracted fight to free herself before buying her way out of that contract in 2013. That was, for a time, the end to her jazz career.
Enter Vilray Blair Bolles, a onetime NEC classmate of Price, and a guitarist and singer steeped in the jazz stylings of Depression Era Tin Pan Alley. Vilray represented a siren’s call for Price to again perform jazz, and the duo formed for select shows about four years ago. What a musical marriage it has been.
Bolles kidded Monday night at the Sinclair that Price kept after him so much to form a duo that he finally acquiesced. At least we think he was kidding. It wouldn’t take more than one overture from Price to make the knees of most jazz practitioners buckle at the thought.
The two have any easy chemistry and their voices both blend and contrast strikingly throughout their program. You know it’s something special when an SRO crowd fills a venue as large of the Sinclair and is held in rapt attention by only two voices and a 1985 Squier Telecaster. While they are channeling Les Paul & Mary Ford with some of the golden-age-of-radio jazz classics, their standout songs are whimsical originals cut from that same fabric, including “Let’s Make Love (On A Plane)” and “At Your Mother’s,” which Price explained was a humorous response to an ex-boyfriend who remained connected to her mother long after they parted — and her desire to put a stop to it.
The encore included a rousing rendition of the Andrews’ Sisters’ “Oh, Johnny, Oh” in which Price delivered a trio’s worth of energy. While I adored seeing Price perform ballads such as “Skylark” with the jazz trio she employed in her first recording go-round in 2008, it is even more special to hear her exquisite voice offset only by the single guitar and silken voice of Vilray.