Rene Marie at Dazzle

Geoff Anderson By

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Rene Marie
Denver, CO
August 4, 2017

Rene Marie exudes joy. Over the course of an 80 minute set, she can evoke nearly every human emotion, but it's joy that comes across most often. That's how much she loves to sing. She even had to divorce her husband of 23 years after they got in a fight about whether he would allow her to sing. He said no. She said goodbye. That was 20 years ago and now we have one of the more creative female jazz singers on the scene today.

Although she's clearly in the "jazz" camp, she wants you to know that she's not a traditionalist. She explained it in her song "This For Joe" which she recorded on her album Black Lace Freudian Slip (Motema, 2011).

I can't compete I can't be a good girl and sing standards all nice and sweet Yes, I know what swing is, But for me, that thing is incomplete And I mean it—I can't compete Please don't compare me to Ella or Sarah; Magnolias won't stay in this hair.

Ironically, she did swing during her Friday night show. Not all the time. Not even most of the time, but sometimes; and when she did, she and the band swung hard. Her pianist, John Chin, made it happen along with Elias Bailey on bass and Quinten Baxter on drums. Chin demonstrated he was steeped in the jazz life with his version of "Midnight Sun" with just the instrumental trio and no vocals. Another irony in light of those lyrics is that one of her early albums was entitled Live at the Jazz Standard (Max Jazz, 2003) and it contains mostly...standards.

Although she recorded some of her original songs on her early albums, her writing has increased over the years and her most recent album Sound of Red (Motema, 2016) is all originals. Even on the standards, her personality has always shone through. In her hands, jazz is never a museum piece. And, as her songwriting has developed over the years, she has become more expressive than ever.

Friday night's program drew heavily from Sound of Red including kicking off the evening with the title track. Another tune from that album was "This is Not a Protest Song." The song deals with homelessness and mental illness and she refers to her own family members in the lyric. She actually wrote that song about ten years ago and released as a single as a fund raiser for homelessness. None of this is typical of a jazz singer, but Marie is not your typical jazz singer.

Originally from the East Coast, Marie moved to Colorado several years ago. She's since moved back east, but Friday night's show was a bit of a homecoming, attended by many of the friends she made while living here. She also threw in an original song, inspired by her past home, "Colorado River Song." That one also featured a whistle-along where she invited the audience to whistle whatever they wanted during the instrumental break.

The closer was a great example of what Marie can do with other people's songs; even songs from two different eras and two different genres. She talked about her father and how, at the time of his death, they weren't on speaking terms. She took full blame. She went on to talk about two of his favorite songs. One that he listened to often was Ravel's "Bolero." Later he came across Roberta Flack's version of "Suzanne," a Leonard Cohen tune. In true Marie form, she welded the two, starting with the signature snare drum intro from "Bolero," followed by her scat vocal of the main theme, eventually morphing into "Suzanne" while "Bolero" continued as the accompaniment. And, like the original "Bolero," the Marie version started quietly and worked its way to a dramatic fortissimo conclusion. What better way to end a concert?

Set List: Sound of Red; I Like You; This is Not a Protest Song; Rufast Daliarg; Midnight Sun; Colorado River Song; Many Years Ago; Bolero/Suzanne

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