Tuesday, May 3, 2011

FULL-BLOWN STAR


Rene’ Marie got her start on Max Jazz Records. She was among a fine group of singers the label featured in its vocal series. Along with LaVerne Butler, Mary Stalling, Carla Cook, and Phillip Manuel, Marie made Max Jazz a formidable record company. When Marie was starting out, I scored an interview with her for the Metrotimes, a weekly newspaper in Detroit. I also caught her shows at the Serengeti Ballroom, a jazz spot on Woodward Ave. run by concert promoter Bill Foster. Marie's live shows are dynamic like her recordings.  And she's also a wonderful songwriter. I kept an eye on Marie's career.

Marie made four outstanding dates for Max Jazz “How Can I Keep From Singing,” Vertigo,” Live at the Jazz Standard,” and “Serene Renegade”. Between recording projects, Marie toured nationally and internationally, and she was lauded in important jazz magazines such as Jazz Times and Down Beat. Marie worked hard, and now she's a full-blown star. Early last month, Marie birthed her first offspring for Motema Records “Voice of My Beautiful Country,” This album is her most intriguing yet.

Marie divided the album into two parts “Imagination Medley,” and “Voice of My Beautiful Country Suite”. This album is best consumed whole. Marie covers a lot of territory. And her arrangements of “Just My Imagination,” “Drift Away,” and “John Henry” are striking. Marie reworded the Temptation's jewel "My Imagination" so it appears as though a girl is talking about her beau. Hands down, it's the best track on Marie's album.

She culls the best from her rhythm section piano player Kevin Bales, bass player Rodney Jordan and drummer Quentin Baxter. Throughout “Voice of My Beautiful Country”, the rhythm section is tighter than banjo strings. Marie didn’t sing on “Drum Battle” and “Piano Blues”. She gave the floor to Baxter and Bales. Marie turns “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” into a blues number. Then she combines “Life Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and the "Star-Spangled Banner” into a jazz ballad. Marie is complete jazz singer incapable of mediocrity. Her projects are always intriguing.
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