Jacqui Dankworth and Charlie Wood/Huntingdon Hall, Worcester

WELL, it has to be said that the clues were all there, what with the piano player sounding more southern than a plate of fried catfish and grits, a sort of cross between Ray Charles and Doctor John.

All of which explains La Dankworth’s announcement early on. “This is Charlie Wood and his name is up in lights in Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee,” she purred. “And he’s my husband, too.”

And what a marriage made in music heaven. Whether it’s the influence of her other half or what, the fact is that this delectable diva’s repertoire seems to be far more eclectic these days.

Yes, we’re still spoiled for choice when it comes to American Songbook selections, but there is much more of a gospel feel to her set these days.

Right from the opener Just You, Just Me, a Ray Charles and Betty Carter duet, it became clear that the times are indeed a’changing for this daughter of jazz royalty.

And while Autumn in New York was obviously safe and familiar territory, the menu would become increasingly more exotic, finally resulting in the supremely inventive Windmills of Your Mind, which featured an extended scat improvisation courtesy of the singer’s electrifying multi octave range.

Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend soared high above Worcester’s endless rain clouds, while one of the most interesting interludes from a harmonic point of view was Lennon and McCartney’s I Will, which disinterred the over-fast original from its lonesome White Album tomb.

But who would have thought that Stax staples Sam and Dave’s Something Wrong With My Baby, Something Wrong With Me would have gained admission to a jazz gig?

Well it sure did, with Wood turning up the heat some and delivering his by now trademark after-midnight-cigarettes-and-whisky piano figures.

It’s said that the couple that plays together stays together. Yes indeed, let’s hope so. And may they return to Worcester soon.

John Phillpott