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BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival finale ends on a high note

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AM and MetroTech Center conclude their 2008 BAM Rhythm & Blues Festival at MetroTech this month and next.

In its 14th year, the festival continues to feature the legends of R&B and world music — and the genres’ vibrant and innovative newcomers — headlining free outdoor concerts every Thursday now to August 7.

These lunchtime performances (12-2 p.m.) are held at MetroTech Commons, located at the corner of Flatbush and Myrtle avenues. For information, call 718-636-4100 or visit www.bam.org.

Alice Smith sings on July 24. Smith has the voice of a soul singer: a four-octave range and remarkable control, versatility, and emotion. In spite — or because — of this, her songs hardly fall into the soul, or even neo-soul, category. Instead, they circle from rock to blues to pop to R&B to jazz, never settling fully into one before a new chord, a new phrase, or a new verse will change the feel completely.

Meshell Ndegeocello is on stage July 31. The brilliant innovative funk/soul bassist/co­mposer/ban­dleader Meshell Ndegeocello was one of the first female artists signed to Madonna’s Maverick record label in the early 90s. In 1993, her debut album received three Grammy nominations.

But it was a duet with John Mellencamp on a cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night” a year later that brought the singer/bassist the most acclaim, as the song became one of the year’s biggest hits.

Concluding the series is Richie Havens with special guest Marcus Carl Franklin on August 7. Born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Havens moved to Greenwich Village in 1961 in time to get in on the folk boom. Havens had a distinctive style as a folksinger with his guitar set to an opening tuning, he would strum it while barring chords with his thumb, using it essentially as percussion while singing rhythmically in a gruff voice for a mesmerizing effect. Havens’ 1967 Verve release “Mixed Bag” is a classic.

It wasn’t until 1968 and the “Something Else Again” album, however, that Havens began to hit the charts — actually, Havens’ fourth, third, and second albums charted that year, in that order.

Havens’s career benefited enormously from his appearance opening the Woodstock festival in 1969 and his subsequent featured role in the movie and album made from the concert in 1970. His first album after that exposure, “Alarm Clock,” made the Top 30 and produced a Top 20 single in “Here Comes the Sun.”

These recordings were Havens’ commercial high-water mark, but by this time he had become an international touring success. Havens made a cameo appearance in the 2007 fictionalized biopic about Bob Dylan, “I’m Not There,” which featured a starring role by the teenage blues guitarist and actor Marcus Carl Franklin.

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