Mixed grill

By JON GARELICK  |  December 1, 2008

She was appearing at the Regattabar on the release date of her Seen (Wrasse/Polydor). Fluitt and guitarist John Andrews were regulars, but the Brooklyn drummer Tobias Ralph and the Boston six-string bassist Jeff Jones were last-minute additions. It didn't matter. When she segued from her original "Pleasure" into Nina Simone's "See-Line Woman" and back again, they were right with her. The touchstones were R&B, folk, country rock, some reggae, even a touch, on her song "Softly," of South African township funk. Her "Somebody New" had the rising swoon of an R&B classic. Andrews, a partner in the arrangements, knew when to lay it on and when to lay back, always hitting the right reference — the tone and the phrasing of his sweet blues-rock solo on "Days like These" were straight-up George Harrison.

Morley's had a crazy-charmed life. From Jamaica, in Queens, she's worked in the New York public schools, taught dance and yoga, studied African percussion with the great Baba Olatunji, worked as a model, sung in a Ralph Lauren TV ad, and worked in South Africa. In 1998 she made a debut album with guests like Jeff Buckley and Joan Wasser that sank with the label, Sony's Work imprint; she self-released Days like These in 2006. At the Regattabar she made fun of herself for asking the audience to sing along on the very first song, and for the last number she brought up an NEC sophomore, Wayne Paul, to join on vocals "because people always dragged me up on stage and then I had to learn how to write songs." The encore, "Women of Hope," was built on a phrase from the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi: "If you're feeling helpless, help someone." And damned if it didn't get me choked up.

DAVE BRYANT QUARTET | Edward M. Pickman Concert Hall, Longy School of Music, 27 Garden St, Cambridge | December 4 at 8 pm | Free | www.longy.edu/concerts

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