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Rebecca Jade gearing up for San Diego Music Awards performance (she has five nominations) and new album

Singer Rebecca Jade is up for a field-leading five nominations for the 2022 San Diego Music Awards.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The versatile singer, who counts Elton John, Sheila E and Dave Koz among her many collaborators, is gearing up for new album with her band, The Cold Fact, and concerts in Europe and Barbados

How busy will Rebecca Jade be when the 2022 edition of the San Diego Music Awards is held April 19 at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay?

Let’s take a quick tally.

For the record:

3:39 p.m. April 8, 2022Rebecca Jade’s next album, “A Shade of Jade,” is a solo album. It does not feature her band, The Cold Fact, as the original version of this article incorrectly indicated.

Jade, whose collaborators have ranged from Elton John and Sheila E. to San Diego top jazz guitarist Peter Sprague and smooth-jazz sax star Dave Koz, is nominated in a field-leading five categories. Chances are she’ll be giving more than one acceptance speech at the awards show, which was founded 31 years ago.

A 2002 UC Berkley theater and performance studies graduate, Jade is nominated for Song of the Year, Best Video and Best R&B, Funk or Soul Song — all for her uplifting, life-affirming “What’s It Gonna Be.” She is also a Best R&B, Funk or Soul Song nominee for her vocal performances on two other recordings: “When the Battle Is Over” by The Sully Band and “Toes in the Sand,” her collaboration with Jas Miller and Gianni Vancini.

“I’m definitely honored to be part of those other projects that are nominated, and I’m very grateful my song got so much love,” said Jade, who came close to having a career as a professional basketball player before turning to music full-time.

She will perform at the San Diego Music Awards with The Sully Band, whose classic R&B-championing new album, “Let’s Straighten It Out,” features Jade on its standout songs.

Immediately following the conclusion of the awards, she will perform with her band, The Cold Fact, at the after-party in the adjacent Humphreys Backstage Live nightclub.

“I’ll call up a few other local artists to sing with us,” said the versatile singer, who has become a mainstay at the San Diego Music Awards.

“The show is a great way for us to come together as a community, and for people to be acknowledged for their music.”

Rebecca Jade
Eager to expand her musical skill set, award-winning singer Rebecca Jade taught herself to play bass guitar.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Multiple awards wins

Last year, Jade shared Song of the Year honors for “Bad Wolves,” a stirring anti-racism ode that teamed her with Jason Mraz, Veronica May and rapper Miki Vale.

In 2020, Jade was voted Artist of the Year. She won the Best Jazz Album award in 2018 for “Planet Cole Porter,” her joint album with guitarist Sprague, and Best Live Performer (2017) and Best Blues (2015) — both with The Cold Fact.

“I always say to Rebecca: ‘I’m so lucky to get to play with you because I know you’ll hit it big!” said Sprague, whose past collaborators include Al Jarreau, Sonny Rollins and Chick Corea.

“She’s so good, such a hard worker and super humble. She reminds me of (famed bass guitarist) Nathan East. He played his tail off when we worked together here, and he was such a joy to be with. Rebecca has those same qualities.”

Grammy Award-winning album producer Kamau Kenyatta, a key mentor for Jade and former San Diego singer Gregory Porter, is equally effusive.

“Rebecca is that rare intersection of intellect, talent, consistency and a very good nature,” said saxophonist and keyboardist Kenyatta, a music professor at University of California San Diego.

“She and Gregory are both deep thinkers. They are both very tuned into the world around them and keenly aware of contemporary events. They both have a desire and willingness to continuously learn new things. And guess what? They were both top college athletes.”

The parallels extend even further.

Porter attended SDSU on a full football scholarship, but an on-field injury led him to turn to music.

Jade attended UC Berkeley on a full basketball scholarship and twice tried out for the National Women’s Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Sparks team. A car accident-related injury led her to turn to music.

Rebecca Jade
Rebecca Jade cites jazz and blues singing legend Billie Holiday as one of her key early inspirations.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

‘The next Whitney Houston’

It was almost as if destiny had determined Jade’s future was singing in clubs and on concert stages, not competing in gyms and sports arenas.

“I do, in hindsight, believe that,” she said. “And it’s funny because I always fought doing music as a career.”

Jade laughed.

“Well, not always,” clarified the New York native, who moved to San Diego with her parents when she was 8.

“When I was little, I wanted to be the next Whitney Houston. I was a little girl with big dreams. As I got older, it didn’t seem realistic. I was in a girl group, Brown Sugar, when I was 15, trying to make it, and it just didn’t seem like it was happening.

“I thought you could only be a big star — or nothing. I didn’t know there was a middle ground where you could make a living at it. That’s where my family and Kamau helped enlighten me. They told me: ‘You can do this.’ I really shied away from music. I was going to focus on basketball. Then this accident happened and I thought: ‘Maybe I’ll give music a try’.”

The fact that Jade comes from a family of singers surely helped.

Her mother grew up performing in The Green Family Trio, a gospel-music group that also included Jade’s uncle and grandfather. Her father often sang at home, where jazz, classical, pop and R&B albums were on constant rotation. Jade, like a musical sponge, eagerly absorbed them all.

“When I was 10 or 11, I started really listening to the music of Billie Holiday,” she recalled. “I was young, but old enough to start to analyze her singing. There is something about her voice that I was so drawn to.”

Growing up, Jade sang in her church choir and in a Christian youth theater group. She was on her school’s basketball, track and swim teams.

“Rebecca doesn’t just try things, she does them with the intent of mastering them,” Kenyatta said. “She has the skill and curiosity that will make her a viable artist for years and years to come.”

In May, Jade will be a special guest artist for saxophonist Koz’s two, week-long music cruises of the Netherlands and the British Isles.

In June, she will perform with saxophonist Eric Darius as part of the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park. Her new solo album, “A Shade of Jade,” will be released in July, with a CD-release concert to follow.

“I wrote all the lyrics and co-produced it,” said the eclectic singer, who lives in North County with Rico, her husband of 17 years.

In September, Jade will perform at the 35th annual Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival. In October, she’ll team up with saxophonist Ilan Trotman for the Barbados Jazz Excursion. Also, this fall, guitarist Sprague is hoping to record a new album with Jade that will feature jazzy renditions of songs popularized by Whitney Houston.

“I’m a big believer in evolving and bettering yourself in any way you can,” said Jade, who in recent years taught herself to play electric bass. She now sings and plays in unison at many of her concerts.

“I like to think I wear different hats,” Jade. When I sing with Peter (Sprague), it’s totally different from when I sing with The Sully Band. And those are both different from when I sing with Dave Koz or Eric Darius.

“Then, when I do my own thing, I’m exploring who I am. I’m still evolving.”

31st annual San Diego Music Awards

When: 7 p.m. April 19

Where: Humphreys Concerts by The Bay, 2241 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island

Tickets: $40 (general admission); $100 (VIP)

Online: sandiegomusicawards.com

San Diego Music Awards showcase concerts

What: The San Diego Music Awards will hold a record 10 showcase concerts between tonight and April 16. Each will spotlight different 2022 nominees and each will benefit the nonprofit San Diego Music Foundation’s Guitars for Schools program.

Where: Various area venues

Tickets: Prices vary per show

Online: sandiegomusicawards.com


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