Back To The MAX.
The new jazz label, MAXJAZZ, was formally founded with the release of the first four recordings in their "Vocal Series". These recordings included LaVerne Butler's Blues In The City
, Carla Cook's It's All About Love
(MXJ 106), Christine Hitt's You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
(MXJ 107), and Asa Harris' All In Good Time
(MXJ 108). All of these recordings garnered critical praise, with It's All About Love
being nominated for a Grammy(r) Award. Continuing the trend begun last year, the "Vocal Series" is continued with a new release by René Marie, How Can I Keep From Singing
On this recording, journeyman Mulgrew Miller accompanies Ms. Marie on piano, as does the talented Marvin Sewell on guitar. Both contribute heavily to a disc that might be, at the very least, described as eclectic. What is really eclectic about this disc is Ms. Marie's influences. She delivers Ella Fitzgerald on upbeat "What A Difference A Day Makes" and "God Bless The Child" and Betty Carter on the sensual "Four Women". Standing out is a Cassandra Wilson sound and repertoire on the blues-jazz polyglot "Tennessee Waltz" and the steamy "Afro Blue" not to mention a very slow and Sassy "The Very Thought of You". Not inferring that Ms. Marie simply imitates these greats. No, she makes them her own. The similarity is in the spirit of her delivery.
Status Quo. Producer Bruce Barth returns to forge with recording engineer David Baker the crisp MAXJAZZ sound. The sonic personality of How Can I Keep From Singing is part '50s Blue Note warmth and part '90s Columbia clarity. This is the sound envisioned by founder Richard McDonnell. René Marie is a perfect fit when considered with the other MAXJAZZ vocal series releases. I hope that MAXJAZZ can hang onto all of them.