Singer Mary Stallings confessed she was in a sentimental mood during Saturday night's set in the Wisconsin Union Theater, the marquee event of the 2012 Isthmus Jazz Festival. It didn't get the better of her.
Stallings, 72, set a mood of comfort and confidence with opener "Close Enough For Love," gently navigating a vocal range that's wondrously full and flexible. "What A Little Moonlight Can Do" gave the night's Madison-based rhythm section a chance to show off -- drummer Rick Flowers with a solo, bassist John Mesoloras with a constantly nimble bass melody.
Stallings' longtime pianist, David Udolf, led smooth transitions between vocally focused verses and more dramatic, improvised sections. Stallings' hand gestures while singing were brief, matter-of-fact, as if she meant to patiently guide the audience through the execution, rather than play up the emotion. Her voice had that part taken care of, with just the right balance of tenderness and dignity.