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René Marie: Sound of Red

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That René Marie ranks among the most dynamic jazz vocalists around has been without question for quite some time. Now, with her first album of all-original material, Marie takes her A-game to a whole new level. The voice, of course, is spectacular: dark, full and rich. But, as with all exceptional singers, it’s not just a question of sound but of presence-and Marie remains utterly transfixing. Across these 11 tracks she proves an equally spellbinding composer and lyricist. Joined by her working band-pianist John Chin, bassist Elias Bailey and drummer Quentin Baxter-and a few special guests, Marie attempts, she says, “to cover the spectrum of human emotion.”

At one end of the scale: the turbulent title track, stirring up a relentless fury of inner demons; the impassioned ache of “This Is (Not) a Protest Song,” chronicling the sorts of lost souls who become invisible to us all; and the sage advice to a cheating spouse that shapes “Go Home.” Toward the opposite extreme: her gently self-affirming “Stronger Than You Think” and exuberant “Joy of Jazz,” its elation punctuated by trumpeter Etienne Charles. In-between is the sepia-toned nostalgia of “Many Years Ago,” the relaxing sway of “Colorado River Song” and the twilit shimmer of “Certaldo,” with guitarist Romero Lubambo helping to sketch the charming Tuscan town. Marie closes with “Blessings,” a cashmere-soft benediction featuring backing vocals by Shayna Steele. “May you live as long as you want,” she sings. “Never want for as long as you live.” Amen.

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