Note: This is a reposting of a piece I did when René Marie last passed through here in March 2014. She was touring in support of her latest album, I Wanna Be Evil, an homage to Eartha Kitt, which was later nominated for a GRAMMY. I don’t remember who won in the category, but they must have been damn good to beat out I Wanna Be Evil. I interviewed her for the article, and it was one of the most satisfying chats I have ever had with an artist. She was open, honest, and unguarded, and she spoke with great warmth and
humor. It was more like a conversation with an old friend whom I had not seen in years than it was an interview with someone I had never met. Those of you who have seen her before likely already have your tickets in hand. For those of you who have never seen her, I strongly recommend you get tickets before they sell out. I can all but guarantee that you will leave the concert a somewhat better and much happier person than when you entered. (I’ve updated the concert information at the end of the post.)
Photo by Janice Yim.
I saw and heard René Marie for the first time at the Outpost last spring. Going in, I knew only that she was a jazz singer with two first names and an imaginative haircut. That night, I learned that onstage, she opens herself to the music, lights, and audience the way a morning glory opens itself to the sun—brilliantly exposed and vulnerable.
But in command, too—with a lovely instrument, an actress’s ability to assume character, a strong backbone, and a very clear idea of what she wants to do with a song.
This Thursday, vocalist, playwright, teacher, and activist Marie brings her group—with Kevin Bales (piano), Elias Bailey (bass), and Quentin Baxter (drums)—back to the Outpost, riding the wave generated by her latest album, I Wanna Be Evil (Motéma). It’s a delicious tribute to the late Eartha Kitt, featuring a number of songs associated with the strong-willed singer, actress, and dancer, as well as star turns from Charles Etienne on trumpet, the gloriously audacious Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, and Adrian Cunningham on flute, clarinet, and sax. The two ladies have a lot of characteristics in common—suavity, sensuality, grit, honesty, and straight talking—and it’s unlikely anyone else on this planet could honor Kitt as effectively as Marie does. Continue reading