REVIEW: René Marie at the GMF Festival at Pizza Express Jazz Club)

René Marie with Bruce Barth (left)

René Marie
(Pizza Express Jazz Club. 19th August 2016. Part of GMF Festival. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

“It just takes time, just a little more time to get it right,” sings René Marie in Home on her album Sound of Red. The lyric is about something completely different, but it set me thinking. What does it take for a musician to find the precise pulse and pace and balance where the act of making music becomes as natural as that of breathing? How do musicians focus themselves, settle into into that place where an instinctive flow takes over? As Marie sings these songs, all of which she has written herself, she conveys in the words and in the music what stages she has been through (“We sort, we sift, sometimes we just drift.”) to get to the point where she is now completely centred as a performer.

Perhaps that centring is the true miracle of René Marie’s craft. Marie is a rarity in that she did not start to perform professionally as a singer until her early forties - maybe that has something to do with the conviction, the flow, she has as a performer. (She tells that story in the INTERVIEW she recently did with Tessa Souter) The end of the song form is often a cue to be completely free, to take the band on an open-ended excursion. Each one of those was a moment of magic last night.

Marie has a regular working band in the US, with whom she has recorded the album, but there was never a sense that last night's GMF band was anything less than comfortable and in sympathy with the varied repertoire. Her association with pianist Bruce Barth goes back many years, and the other members - Arnie Somogyi, Perico Sambeat and Stephen Keogh -  with whom she works as a GMF tutor, also seem to know instintively how to balance together and what directions to take, and to pinpoint all kinds of moods from the summer-night romanticism of Certaldo, to the fun innuendo of Colorado River Song, to the foot-to-the-floor exuberance of Joy of Jazz.

The GMF week comes to an end tomorrow night with the Rising Stars concert (SEE OUR FEATURE).

The Foundation's team led by Stephen Keogh have also had another majot triumph during this course, and one which has gone virtually unreported. They managed to persuade the great Peter King, who has cancelled every other gig since an operation in May, to return for the very first time - by all accounts in complete triumph - to the stage.

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