Live Last Night: Rene Marie

"Voice of My Beautiful Country," a new program performed by jazz vocalist Rene Marie at the Kennedy Center KC Jazz Club on Saturday night, held a few surprises. Prime example: Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" sandwiched in between recitals of "Shenandoah" and "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing."

Yet all the lyrics held personal meaning for Marie, as the audience soon discovered, and together they formed what she described in the program notes as her "love song to America."

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Some of the tunes covered by Marie -- and ingeniously rearranged with the help of her tight-knit trio -- were inspired by treasured memories and surefire melodies. "Just My Imagination," for instance.

But the most memorable segment of the performance was triggered by Marie's childhood recollections of growing up in segregated Virginia. Four anthems she learned as a grade school student, including "America The Beautiful" and "My Country Tis Of Thee," inspired a soul-stirring medley that fully revealed her emotional range -- to say nothing of her vocal power and beauty. The arrangement also required Marie to display her obvious gift improving and her earthy way with the blues.

Not the least of the evening's rewards came when Marie performed her own songs with the inspired support of pianist Kevin Bales, bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Quentin Baxter. One clever lyric, from an as-yet-unrecorded song, served notice that Marie isn't content to merely follow the path of jazz vocalists who came before her. Of course, one could argue that the entire concert was evidence of that.


By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 29, 2009; 11:16 PM ET Live Last Night
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