Fortunately, a few tunes feature vocals by Jamie Register (who also plays bass) that fill in the soundscape, adding depth and confidence to the recordings. In addition to lyrics on the noteworthy soul numbers "Alright" and "When It Comes," Register also sings instrumental vocal on other tunes, and she isn't afraid to play with melodies or inflection in her improvisation. Her voice smooth like Sade's and haunting like Astrud Gilberto's deserves greater exposure. The need is especially noticeable in live performances, where Register is the band's stage presence not just because she's the only woman and the only black member of the band, but because her seriousness of purpose radiates from her muscular arms, piercing eyes, and round bass sound.
Of course, the whole band is serious about its music, and maybe that's the problem. If these musicians really felt on cloud nine, they might be able to let go and surprise themselves.
Cloud Nine Music is at Leopold Bros. on Saturday, September 7, and at the Blind Pig on Friday, September 27.
[Originally published in September, 2002.]