Review: René Marie

What a great pleasure to discover a really good songwriter who also happens to be an accomplished jazz singer! I hadn’t heard of René Marie before seeing her at Birdland, and she presented a show entirely composed of songs from her new album The Sound of Red, all material composed solely by her. And, what do you know, every song is as engaging in performance as a sensitively rendered standard.

A lot of that has to do with Marie’s lyrics, which touch on universal subjects in a direct, sincerely-felt way. They don’t have the obviousness of cliché, but rather the deceptive simplicity of a Berlin or Hammerstein lyric – phrases that seem like they’ve always been there, but never said quite that way. Musically, however, these songs are quite sophisticated. She’s modest about her song “Go Home” (a rueful instruction to a man she’s having an affair with), calling it “maybe too country” at one point in her intro, but the song’s harmonies do subtle but odd shifts that could come right out of compositions by Dizzy Gillespie or Maurice Ravel.

As a vocalist, René Marie has a fantastic instrument: warmly supple, strong and profoundly expressive. Her confidence as a performer engages you from the first note; especially powerful in this performance where the first song is a haunting a capella she wrote the day of her opening night “Ain’t Gonna Be Long for this Earth.” Her between song talk is less patter, and more like a spontaneous, smiling decision to let you in on her secrets. Highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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