René Marie: The Very Thought of You

René Stevens was singing professionally at age 17, but marriage and raising a family resulted in her abandoning performing for more than 20 years. Her daring decision to once again pursue a singing career led to the breakup of her marriage and the end of a secure position at a bank. After independently producing her first CD, Renaissance, under her married name René Croan, she was signed by MAXJAZZ two years later, at which point she decided to become known as René Marie, adopting her middle name as her last. Her How Can I Keep from Singing? release garnered critical acclaim for the then 44-year-old "new discovery." Today Marie is back to recording independently, while continuing to mix her originals--many focusing on issues of social relevance--with spot-on interpretations of standards.

One such standard on her breakthrough CD in 2000 was "The Very Thought of You." Marie sings it with much attention to detail, nuanced in her intonation, inflections, phrasing, and emotional message and impact, and finishing with a swooping Sarah Vaughan-ish descending melisma just before Mulgrew Miller's piano solo. Miller's accompaniment is all-embracing, and his ringingly lyrical solo possesses more than a little touch of grandeur, Marie returns with a more playful attitude, taking liberties with the melodic line that reveal a Betty Carter influence. All in all, in its subtlety, this remains one of Marie's best recorded performances of a standard tune.

August 05, 2009 · 0 comments


Brad Mehldau: The Very Thought of You

This 13-minute version of the Ray Noble standard, recorded at the Village Vanguard in October 2006, starts out as an introspective trio ballad. For the next six minutes, Mehldau and company stay close to the original harmonies and the pianist impresses with his fresh improvised lines. But midway through the track we encounter one of those surprising shifts that have become a specialty of this artist. Bass and drums fade out, and Mehldau moves outside the framework of the song's form and familiar progression. Although Mehldau has sometimes been compared to Bill Evans, this long interlude is almost the antithesis of Evans. Instead of long, loping right hand lines above crisp comping chords, we find booming, bellowing harmonies supporting a minimum of melodic development. The nexus of energy shifts to different points in the keyboard, and the level of intensity gradually rises. The last seven minutes are not really the same song as the first six – at least not from any precise musicological perspective. But there is a metaphysical linkage, a certain spirit that connects the two ends of the track. This is not just a novel approach to improvisation but a challenge to our very sense of jazz structure. You can't really compare this to jazz precedents. It sets its own.

April 23, 2008 · 0 comments


Previous Page | Next Page