Review: René Marie at Pizza Express Dean Street (2013 LJF)

René Marie
René Marie
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 16th Nov. 2013. Third night first house. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

To judge by the length of the CD signing queue last night, between a third and a half of the audience must have bought copies of the CD “I Wanna be Evil” (reviewed here) after Washington DC -based singer René Marie's gig at Pizza Express Dean Street . That is a pretty good sign of a performer who has completely connected with an audience.

The gig started with a bold gesture - particularly in a restaurant serving continuously - the American baptist hymn How Can I Keep from Singing? delivered completely unaccompanied. Silence prevailed – that does demand the kind of charisma and rapport Marie has. She then explained that she sang that song “to remind me why I'm here.”

What followed was masterful, freedom in every groove, the right combination of intense focus on making the songs cohere as stories, and allowing the rhythms to be kicked into life. Come on Over to My House was done as a duo with the ever-inventive Stephen Keogh. Santa Baby was sung at a mesmerisingly slow crotchet equals about 60. The rhythmic drive in her scatting recalled Ella Fitzgerald in her prime.

The one instrumental number Skylark brought to the fore that marvellously understated pianist Albert Sanz (CD reviewed here) and bassist-on-the-constant-rise Alex Davis to good advantage. And a break-neck tempo Them There Eyes sent  the first house audience home on a definite up.

René Marie is on the faculty and will be doing a public masterclass at the Global Music Foundation course over Easter Weekend 2014

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