René Marie: Experiment in Truth

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René Marie

Experiment in Truth

Birdland, NYC, May 24, 2018

Reviewed by Chris Struck for Cabaret Scenes

René Marie

René Marie brought out the best of jazz with soul-filling music harping bluesy lyrics fused with an extremely talented trio of musicians whose softness and love helped create her vision of sour turned sweet. Whether their music sang of frustration, homelessness, or love, the group brought the same tantalizing build up to their coordinated effort that enveloped the Birdland audience in rapture.
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Marie’s vocals were smooth, but her exaggerated stage movements definitely caught the eye, just as much as her voice caught one’s ear. As the first song, “Lost,” developed, her smile and shaking to the beat was too infectious to resist. Anticipating the energy and rhythm of the music, she seemed to be pulling the solos out of the air rather than reacting to her band’s enigmatic sound. The musicians —  Quentin Baxter on drums, Elias Bailey on bass, and John Chin on piano — were all top notch. Baxter had an intimate understanding of his instrument which flowed into powerful solo work and incredible rhythms. Bailey also shared mesmerizing solos while Chin followed suit with fingers so delicate that their movements were barely perceptible. Only the compiling sounds rushing forth in a rainbow-like array seemed to signal that anything changed at all.
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Marie and her group shared songs from a few of her CDs, including “Sound of Red,” “I Want to Be Evil,” and “Black Lace Freudian Slip” that all featured emotional, subtle, and simple lyrics that suggested strong narratives over the course of long songs supported by outstanding instrument work. Two of my favorites were “O Nina!,” a tribute to Nina Simone, where Marie sang parts of Simone classics and then a chorus of “O Nina!” and “Rufast Daliarg,” a song about giving advice to her son in his first year of college about learning to stand on one’s own. Marie certainly transported me to distant and recent memories as she tenderly sang, “So close your eyes and let the wind from a thousand skies carry you away and set you down on foreign ground, so you can run.”

Marie consistently performs around the country with her band making stops in Virginia, Michigan, and Iowa before returning to New York in late July. She’ll be at the 92nd Street Y on July 25, 2018.

Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see