René Marie: Bolero / Suzanne


Bolero / Suzanne


René Marie (vocals)


Live at Jazz Standard (MAXJAZZ MXJ 116)

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René Marie (vocals),

John Toomey (piano), Elias Bailey (bass), T. Howard Curtis, III (drums)


“Bolero” composed by Maurice Ravel; “Suzanne” composed by Leonard Cohen


Recorded: live at Jazz Standard, New York, November 29-30 & December 1, 2002


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

       surrender to the ancestors within while rhythms strain at the leash – feral, domestic, hypnotic.
       i sing fractured, spent, pulsating. live.

This conclusion to René Marie's poem, enclosed in the packaging of her Live at Jazz Standard CD, comes close to describing the feeling you get while listening to her 10-minute tour de force combining Ravel's "Bolero" and Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne." What Marie may lack as a singer in terms of power and range, she more than makes up for in expressiveness, risk-taking and overall inventiveness. (For further proof of this, view Marie's recent controversial rendition of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" – set to the melody of "The Star-Spangled Banner" – prior to the State of the City address by the Mayor of Denver, Colorado, where she was mistakenly introduced as René Martin.)

Marie's wordless solo incantation of "Bolero" begins the piece, with beguiling embellishments achieved through subtle vocal slurs, slides, and ardent outcries. The drummer enters first with a march-like rhythm, followed shortly by ponderous walking bass, as Marie segues seamlessly to the lyrics of "Suzanne," sung with enormous grace, sensitivity and emotion. Marie builds the tension and dynamic level as she proceeds, the tempo accelerating gradually, until her reprise becomes an all-out ecstatic release. The audience erupts in exhilarated applause after this transfixing experience, as well it should.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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