A visit upstairs at Middleton Tavern in Annapolis is as nice a way to close out the weekend as you could find between Washington and Baltimore.
There on Sunday evenings, three friends (composer and sax player John Starr, pianist Karl Modery and singer Paris Lane) have clubbed together for the last four months to perform the "Sunday Blues,"a variety of contemporary and classic popular tunes.
And, even though they say they don't practice together all that much, such is the artistic and technical accomplishment of this littletrio that they really pack them in.
It's not bad for a "pick-up band," but maybe Middleton should consider spreading the trio around to other nights. Either that or shore up the floor to support the frequent capacity crowd.
Modery recalled the birth of the trio as a rather casual process.
"Four months ago we started out with Artie Dix (of the Inkspots), and we evolved to where Paris came in one Fridayor Saturday night, when I was just here, playing the piano," he said.
Modery didn't know Lane was coming in that night, but decided ona whim to let her sing, as he has others. "It's something I do to give the audience a break, because I'm up there for about four hours, and so they need that," Modery said.
Lane performed Gershwin's "Summertime," and "at that point, I knew we had something here. So I talked to her about coming in on a regular basis, and later on, she brought John Starr in here."
For a time, Dix and Lane shared the singing duties, an experience Lane recalls as "grand. I admire Artie Dix tothe utmost. I never realized that I had something (musically) until Artie told me I did, several years ago. And this is a man who has traveled a lot, seen a lot, and heard a lot, so it counts, coming from aman like that."
The performing style of the Sunday Blues tends tobe very laid-back and casual, reflecting the way it was formed.
"We just play it by ear through the whole thing," Modery said, due to conflicting daytime schedules, which effectively knock out any sort of practice time.
"Of course, we really don't need to (practice) --but I don't mean for it to sound that way. It's just that the stuff we're doing is supposed to be ad-lib. That's the way we want the showto be.
"They're easy to work with," Modery said of his associates. "The chemistry's there. We get along with and understand each otherwell enough to know we're not going to surprise each other."
Starr, a local composer and one of the leaders of the fabled "Wooden Hands" jazz fusion band of the early 1970s, agreed with Modery's description of the way the trio works.
"It's chemistry, and keeping the ears open so that once in a while we'll change something right in the middle of things, or at the last minute, but nothing that won't throw each other too far out so we don't surprise each other too much. It'sfun."
Lane, who grew up in a musical household, said: "I've always wanted to sing, as far back as I could remember. I began professionally when I was 16 and I've been in several bands since then."
Now34, and also the lead vocalist for the top-40 rock group Radio City,Lane described her artistic growth as "a natural thing. I had two older sisters that sang, and they made me harmonize with everything, because they wanted the lead parts."
It was an experience that gave her some very basic musical training, at an early age, almost withoutrealizing it.
Lane, with a five-octave range, describes herself musically as "very versatile. The thing I like the most is that you cannot put me in a category. But a lot of people try.
"They call me a gospel singer, a jazz singer, a rock-and-roll singer or a show singer, but I'm all of the above, because I like all different types of music -- from Billy Holiday to Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle to Marian Anderson. I listen to so many different styles, and then I just combine them all together. But I don't copy them. I just take what they all do and make it my own."
As for working with Modery and Starr, Lane said: "I love it. Karl and John are just the greatest. And the way wework together seems to work so well. I call it 'being blessed,' the sort of chemistry we have.
"I can't really explain it, because I've worked with a lot of musicians before," Lane said. "It's just more of a feeling type of thing, and I'm a feelings type of singer. I never perform anything the same way twice."
Lane, who works for the Maryland Register during the day, says she hopes to one day turn full professional, and her partners both say she has the potential to do so.
In particular, Starr called her "not artistically shy at all. She's not afraid to try anything. And a great voice, there's no question about that. Plus, she has drive, ability, and charisma."