Indeed, Carter has devoted the last five years of her life to recordings and concerts, taking great care to find a wide variety of material that speaks to her -- and often creating surprising new arrangements to give them a fresh spin. Occasionally, though, her somewhat thinnish voice doesn't serve her choices as well as they might, but one always admires the intention.
Still, her 15-song set has a fair share of winners, including a lovely pairing of the R&B standards "You Send Me" and "At Last"; a spirited take on "Crazy Little Thing Called Love"; a brilliantly harmonic version of "Chattanooga Choo Choo" beside back-up singers Vicki Hampton and Cindy Walker; and smile-inducing renditions of Peter Allen's "I Go to Rio" and the cajun classic "Let the Good Times Roll."
Carter also showcases her own songwriting ability in a pair of autobiographical tunes. "Stay With Me" (dedicated to her husband) and "Jessie's Song" (dedicated to her daughter). And for this engagement, she has introduced a soulful and heartfelt version of the Eagles' "Desperado" (admittedly, one of my all-time favorite pop songs), which she explained was inspired by a person in her life who battled alcoholism.
Smartly, Carter has recruited some of the finest musicians in the business -- pianist Shane Keoster, bassist Dave Hungage, drummer Paul Leim, guitarist Kerry Marx, and saxophonist Sam Levine -- to back her up, and hearing them do their magic is almost worth the price of admission.
Longtime fans of Carter will also appreciate the intimacy of the venue, where one can practically reach out and touch the star; she even obligingly posed for some mid-concert photos. That said, the show might also gain some energy from a larger venue (a version presented earlier this year at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Allen Room had more pizzazz) and a larger audience.