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Event # 294: THE WOMAN ISSUE
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LAST WEEK's EDITION
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MARIETTA, OH, USA - The order came down last week from Our Esteemed Publisher. Following Man Week at G21, we are to pay tribute in our writing to Women Week. Besides not being too happy with a " suggestion" that we salute the ladies, I thought of the fact that my salute goes throughout today and every day to my dear bride. Something must have gone right, because we're still together more than 50 years after the wedding. However, when Brother Rod issues a suggestion, I follow the hint with as much zeal as if my wife had personally voiced the command.
Then when I went through the stacks of new CDs arriving fairly recently, I came up with a single title featuring a singer named Rene Marie. Her next CD comes from the label MAXJAZZ (their publicist insists on capitalizing the name, so I will, too.)
The third release from this excellent singer, " Vertigo," showcases everything from jazz standards to a controversial pairing of Dan Emmett's allegedly racist " Dixie" and Marie's soul-stirring version of the Billie Holiday classic. The pairing will startle some, but it's the music that always counts. In this instance, the music wins out as she makes the unlikely two songs blend quite nicely.
It's worth pointing out that this album isn't part of any crusade on civil rights. Marie sings with full command of her talents. She handles the standards and takes care of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's superb "Blackbird."
Other familiar tracks include "It's All Right With Me," an oldie written by Cole Porter, the magical "I Only Have Eyes for You" and the always smile-producing "Surrey With the Fringe on Top." Demonstrating her all-around abilities, she does a song she composed, "I'd Rather Talk About You."
The musicians supporting Marie include one of the fine jazz pianists of today, the versatile and confident Mulgrew Miller. His name seems to be showing up on more and more albums. Chris Potter, fast becoming a major force on the tenor saxophone, offers some vital assistance. One of the top drummers in jazz and R&B, Jeff "Tain" Watts, provides his steady beat on most of the tracks.
Returning to her singing career after raising two youngsters, Marie now lives in Atlanta. She knows where she shines, observing that "When I'm experimenting with Songs that's when I'm most creative. The trick is to be willing to risk showing people not only the good, but the bad. You can't be self-conscious. It's scary, but that's part of the process."
Rene Marie has that process mastered. You'll agree after you listen to "Vertigo."
Christmas JoySpeaking of MAXJAZZ, the company has a Christmas album that should provide plenty of enjoyment during the holidays. "MAXJAZZ" showcases most of the label's talent stable, including Rene Marie singing "Let It Snow, Let It Snow" and "Winter Wonderland." Pianist Mulgrew Miller leads the trio. It's good, good stuff.
Laverne Butler, who has two CD's on the label, sings superb versions of "Sleigh Ride" and "Christmas Song," the latter being just about my favorite holiday composition. Carla Cook, who's a newcomer to these ears, does two magnificent compositions, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and "Silent Night."
Finally, Mary Stallings shows her vocal talent (available in good measure) on "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and the great "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Pianist Bruce Barth plays with aplomb on "O Christmas Tree" and "Greensleaves." The album also includes valuable musicianship by Philip Manuel, who sings "Peace on Earth" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain."
Christine Hitt, with a sultry voice that contains a romantic sheen, does her magic on "We'll Dress the House" and "Some Children See Him." She winds up with a nice turn on the ancient "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." It's so old that I remember hearing it when I was a mere twig of a boy during World War II.
So that's it. As you're no doubt observed, the column is predominately about ladies and their voices. Either one of these albums would make great stocking stuffers, especially for that friend or relative with an appreciation for jazz, America's greatest contribution to the world of music.
Please come back and visit a spell with me next time. Patronize those record labels that bring you jazz. Doing so with assure more of the same. Cheers.
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