FRIDAY

Baby Jane Dexter insists that her Friday Blues Alley debut will not be a show or a concert but “a one-night event.” No need to quibble about semantics. Everything Dexter does is an event, even the simple act of walking onstage. The big, beautiful, brightly clad singer makes removing her gloves a dramatic experience. She calls her new show, er, one-night event “Everything Must Change—Starting Here! Starting Now!,” which, judging from her previous performances, is likely to be a post-graduate seminar at the University of Hard Knocks. Although she’s generally pigeonholed as a cabaret artist, Manhattan-based Dexter has created her own genre, drawing material from a broader range of sources than any other singer I can name. Accompanied by her longtime pianist Ross Patterson, bassist Don Falzone, and drummer Eric Parker, she’ll interpret show tunes (Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen), jazz (Abbey Lincoln), soul (James Brown), folk (Bonnie Raitt), cabaret (Amanda Green), and contemporary pop (Michelle Shocked, R.E.M.), along with traditional blues and gospel pieces and several Baby Jane originals. Dexter isn’t about making pretty, soothing sounds; in the tradition of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Judy Garland, she unleashes a firestorm of raw emotions, challenging audiences to acknowledge and heal their own wounds. In the course of an hour, she can shatter your heart and then, by the inevitable encore, reassemble the pieces. Dexter performs at 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave NW, Rear. $18. (202) 337-4141. (Joel E. Siegel)

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