That shopworn description songbird applies to the jazz singer and pianist Daryl Sherman.
Not only because she has a sweet, little-girl lilt embodied in her voice, but also because her musical spirit belongs to an era when jazz singing was an expression of pure enjoyment; Freudian subtexts had yet to tunnel into the core of popular music.
But Ms. Sherman, who is appearing on Monday evenings indefinitely at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, isnt all sweetness and light. Like Blossom Dearie (who died on Feb. 7), to whom she bears a striking vocal resemblance, she can be appreciated for the good-natured spin she imparts to songs. Or you can look deeper and discover the sadness below the chin-up optimism.
For all their vocal similarities, the two phrase songs very differently. Ms. Sherman pointedly syncopates melodies and often breaks them up into abrupt little bursts of energy. Her jazz pianism is sparer and more percussive.
The opening number in Mondays show, the 1926 standard Breezin Along With the Breeze, however, was a quintessentially carefree Daryl Sherman performance, lent an extra buoyancy by James Chirillos light, swinging guitar and Dean Johnsons bass.
Darker undercurrents soon made their way into her set. Images of post-Katrina New Orleans, a city she knows well, kept recurring in her patter. And in her performances of three songs Charade, Little Girl Blue and the Depression-era Gershwin number Things Are Looking Up anxiety threatened to unseat the cheer.
Little Girl Blue was particularly poignant, because Ms. Shermans vocal timbre implies a pre-adolescent vulnerability. Your impulse was to protect this wounded innocent from the cold, cruel world.
Sung slowly and wistfully, Things Are Looking Up was turned inside out. The songs title phrase sounded like the hollow pronouncement of good times ahead by a chief executive who secretly knows that his company is about to fold. And at moments Ms. Sherman seemed as if she were fighting back tears. The number was a perfect example of how todays economically uncertain mood can seep into the sensibilities of performers and audiences alike.
Daryl Sherman performs Mondays at the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, 59 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (212) 419-9331, algonquinhotel.com.