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The pure joy of singing was celebrated last night at 98 Bottles when the San Diego Vocal Quartet made their concert debut.

Organized by the soulful giant Leonard Patton the quartet also featured soprano Nina Flowers, alto Janet Hammer and tenor Matt Falker. Alternating between baritone and bass, Patton kept track of the low notes in the often lush and intricate harmonizing.

Opening with the Al Jarreau piece, "Mornin'," arranged in the "Poinciana," groove, the four-part harmonies quickly outpaced the original.

Expertly supported by an all-star rhythm section featuring pianist Ed Kornhauser, double bassist Harley Magsino, and drummer Duncan Moore, all four vocalists got to shine, individually--and collectively.

"Never Say Yes," by Nat Adderley was a mainstream cooker with a similar structure to the Miles Davis classic "Four." Each singer took a one chorus scat-solo, alternating with each member of the rhythm section.

Magsino's throbbing whole-notes and the swirl of Moore's brushstrokes provided the landscape over which the four singers soared, swooped and cooed the rich and bluesy harmonies of "Harlem Nocturne."

Falker has a light, airy and acrobatic tenor which he used to great effect on his solo feature, the Latin-tinged "Zanzibar." Kornhauser illuminated the changes with heady lyricism and well-timed block chords.

All four took off on the unlikely vocal vehicle "The Red One," by Pat Metheny, everyone weaving in and out of the trademarked contours of the quirky tune. Patton soloed in the manner of Metheny's guitar-synthesizer with startling register leaping and otherworldly textures.

Janet Hammer's supple alto took control on her aching reading of "Never Let Me Go," belting out the yearning lyrics with appropriate pathos and bringing the house to a roar in the process. Her voice is smoky, emotive and athletic.

Patton chose an original of his own, "Love, Life & Song," for his feature--it had a Coltrane-like vibe which Magsino's bass strums and Moore's dramatic mallet-stricken drum rolls set up well. Patton's huge voice--pitch perfect, burnished and resonant--filled the room, and he took flight with a show-stopping solo. The band dropped out when Patton morphed into Bobby McFerrin territory--improvising wildly until he passed the baton to Moore, who's solo began with tiny gestures of thwacks and choked cymbal pings that graduated into a full-blown hurricane of drum-as-orchestra implications.

Nina Flowers took the lead on the vocals-only "Two For The Road," while the others laced her melody with expansive and reverberant voices that spanned the orchestral spectrum.

Everyone got in on the action for a rollicking spin through the Paul Simon classic, "Loves Me Like A Rock," which closed the show, earning the group their very first standing ovation. Big fun was had by all.

Photo by Barbara Wise

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