It didn't happen until almost the end of the show, but it was well worth the wait to hear Jaimee Paul command the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center stage with the jazz standard "At Last," during Tuesday night's Encore Series performance.
With her husband, Leif Shires, a top-notch Nashville trumpet player, ripping through his rifs, Paul, in her glitzy evening gowns, opened a door to smoke-filled bars and steamy jazz music.
The evening, which included tributes to iconic female voices of the 1940s, was rounded out with a few newer tunes, including a couple of James Bond 007 theme songs.
Paul, who started her career as a backup singer for Wynonna Judd, brought a dark, soulful edge to the Sound of Music's "Favorite Things." Then she took the audience back more than a century to the classic "Harvest Moon," which had the soft, scratchy feel of a '78 RPM record cranked out by a Victrola.
A few surprise musical twists rounded out the evening. There was a rich arrangement of "My Funny Valentine," which fit smartly into Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." Sandy Tipping, on piano, energetic and totally "on" in his red socks, brought serious style to all the evening's arrangements.
Shires' trumpet rocked the night, as he showed his musical versatility in "Autumn Leaves" and "At Last." His on-stage exchanges with Paul were sweet, but lacked a little imagination. Shires and Paul seemed totally in love, but after the first couple of protestations of that sentiment, they probably should have just kept on making music.
Nothing was lacking in Paul's performance of "Fever." And the Hays audience pitched in, providing finger snaps to keep the cool vibe going.
A special treat Tuesday night, Paul said, after performing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was sharing the "Wizard of Oz" classic number with a Kansas audience. And after enjoying the range, lightness and depth of Paul's voice, there was no doubt Paul had brought an exceptional experience to the Kansas audience.
What's next for Encore Series enthusiasts? The "H.M.S." Pinafore, the comic Gilbert and Sullivan opera, comes to the Beach/Schmidt stage at 7:30 p.m. March 25.
For tickets, call (785) 628-5306 or visit www.fhsu.edu/encore.
Dawne Leiker is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.