Tuck and Patti Sunday, Aug. 20, Silver Mountain at Kellogg
In his song “Donald and Lydia,” John Prine sings about two would-be lovers who never met.
“She worked the day shift and he worked the night,” Prine warbles of the star-crossed pair, who in every way would have been perfect for each other.
Fortunately, Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart found each other - and they do seem to be perfect for each other.
Sunday, the guitar-and-vocals duo thrilled a small but adoring crowd with a trademark set of material that ranged from Cathcart’s “Love Warriors” to a handsome reading of Jimi Hendrix’s “Castles Made of Sand.”
Each is phenomenal in his or her own right; together, they make music that is both unique and powerful. And the intent of their music is as important as its quality.
Tuck and Patti are unabashed believers in the redemptive power of love, personally and universally. Hence, songs like “Love Warriors,” in which Cathcart sang, without guile, such lyrics as “Teach your children love is the only true answer.”
That song also is about unity - “We have the same hopes/We have the same face,” she sang - which takes on a deeper meaning given that they are a mixed-race couple.
Cathcart is a big-voiced dynamo whose jazz influences range from Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan to (increasingly) Bobby McFerrin; Andress is a virtuoso guitarist who has developed the ability to play four parts simultaneously: bass, rhythm, harmony and melody.
Though they steadfastly refuse to call their music jazz, it has no closer musical relative.
Andress led off a ballad called “My Romance” with a gentle, ringing guitar intro, and Cathcart entered like a young Sarah Vaughan, the lower registers of her voice resonant and bell-like, despite a cold that had plagued her all week.
Andress swung into an uptempo solo passage with all the elegance of a Joe Pass or Herb Ellis, accenting mind-numbingly quick runs with fat, ringing chords.
Sometimes Tuck and Patti are like a two-ring circus, and you have to pick whom to watch; even when Andress is supporting a Cathcart solo, he finds fascinating figures and textures with which to shade the background. Like any great accompanist, he is as interesting in a supporting role as he is out front.
But when he does step out front, as he did during a three-song solo set, he is flat-out astonishing. As he peeled off one dazzling lead run after another, mimicking a full complement of instruments at the same time, the listener could only wonder at his facility.
But the most dramatic moment of the evening occurred during “Your Love is the Answer,” when Cathcart launched into a spine-tingling vocal workout in which she replicated a drum solo. Nearing its end, she began to “sing” the lyrics in sharp, rhythmic inhalations and exhalations before scatting on such lines as “I hear the Mother/I hear the Mother calling/ Our Mother is calling.”
In lesser hands, the sentiment might seem mawkish and pedestrian. In hers, it carried the weight of passion and artistry.