After hiatus, singer making big strides
Songstress Rene Marie thinks of herself as a risk taker. And that she is, one of the boldest and one of the better ones, too. How far out is she? I suspect Planet Mars is her home turf.
Put simply, no melody is sacred and all lyrics are fair game. She can take a simple tune like “Dixie” and turn into a wailing gospel, and then have the chutzpah to couple it with a moving version of the Billie Holiday classic, “Strange Fruit.”
A singer who probably would work “Three Blind Mice” into an operatic aria has to have a fine voice to begin with.
And Rene Marie does – supple, wonderful range, clean and pure, and easy to listen to even when she’s toying with her voice..
A relatively unknown jazz singer at 44 because she took a 20-year hiatus from singing, she’s made such rapid strides since returning that some critics are comparing her to Ella Fitzgerald, who is Marie’s main influence.
Backed by a seven-piece combo that includes the likes of tenorman Chris Potter, pianist Mulgrew Miller and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, the singer has chosen her program wisely and well.
Marie grabs your attention right out of the box by racing through “Them There Eyes,” chopping phrases and scatting along the way with only bassist Robert Hurst and Watts for company.
Then comes an unexpectedly sexy, slinky reading of “Surrey With Fringe on the Top,” followed by Miller setting an indigo mood for Marie’s gut-level take of “I’d Rather Talk About You” that owes its origins to “‘T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do.”
Marie keeps the eclectic mix alive by adding a Latin flavor and quiet beauty to “I Only Have Eyes For You.” She takes “It’s All Right With Me” at a deliberate pace – none of the can’t-there-fast-enough tempo at which the song is usually played – over Potter’s warm bass clarinet.
The singer shares the honors with Potter (playing tenor sax) and Miller on the loping “Moonray,” gets around the bumps and curves of “Detour Ahead,” and brings the recording to a close with an exquisite performances of the Beatles’ challenging “Blackbird.”
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Cam Miller is a freelance jazz critic in Lake Wildwood. You may write to him care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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