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Soulful songbird Rebecca Jade's well-oiled quartet made their 98 Bottles debut on Sept. 6, laying it down before a packed-house of devoted listeners.

Obviously well-rehearsed, the Jade group sounds much larger than a vocalist plus instrumental trio -- each musician sang flawless harmonies-- they could have easily gotten the gig as conventional back-up singers -- the fact that they were all master musicians was welcome icing on the cake.

Opening with Roberta Flack's classic "Feel Like Making Love," over the lock-step of Michael Kennedy's bass and the sly rimshot groove of Damion Willis's drums, Jade's laid-back sorcery dovetailed tightly with her associates.

Utilizing jazz phrasing layered atop a strutting funk beat on "Just Squeeze Me," Jade soared with warm fluidity and special guest Wayne Braxton's tenor saxophone carved curlicues around the changes.

Jade's voice is athletic, but not muscle-bound, and she can stretch and pull at a melody without resorting to the histrionic overuse of melisma that has ruined so many contemporary singers in this genre. On an impressive arrangement of "Ain't No Sunshine," she ripped through original verses with clarity before locking in on the chorus.

Micah Whitley handled the harmonic responsibilities with admirable taste, voicing his chords for maximum support and crafting concise and relevant solos at will, and the blend of Kennedy's bass and Willis' drums made for some serious groove all evening. Braxton added a nice, soul-jazz touch to much of the material, including a rippling solo on "Pure Imagination," which Jade decorated with power, range and focus.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Jade

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