Rene Marie | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Rene Marie didn't start singing in clubs till 1996, at the age of 41, but just two years later she made the happy decision to leave her job as a bank teller to concentrate on music. She has superb tools and the fearlessness to use them for experiment rather than mere recreation. Her voice has a light, translucent timbre, tight intonation, and a giant emotional range that allows her to cover spirituals and Cole Porter with equal credibility. But what really sets her apart is her compelling and inventive command of rhythm, which she probably owes to the unusual training regimen she developed as a working mother. After putting her kids to bed, she'd listen intently to the music of legends like Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, record herself imitating their phrasing (even their breathing), and then vet the tapes the following day. What a payoff: her 2000 debut, How Can I Keep From Singing?, turned heads, as did the 2002 follow-up, Vertigo. But it was last year's Live at Jazz Standard (Maxjazz) that proved Marie to be a true jazzwoman: impulsive, risk-taking, able to take her material further live than in the studio. She writes, too--clever melodies with smart lyrics that strive for detail rather than settling for easy rhymes and well-worn imagery. Onstage she's a commoner queen who engages her audience on an intimate level while retaining a regal musical bearing, a stance that also distinguished Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Nina Simone. Friday and Saturday, April 23 and 24, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, April 25, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

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