Friday, January 3, 2014

Evil Accepted (Music Review: Rene Marie, I Wanna be Evil - With Love To Eartha Kitt)

On a cold wintry night, I decided to listen to Rene Marie's album "I Wanna Be Evil - With Love To Eartha Kitt," and it fit wonderfully. I have been championing Ms. Marie for a long time now, as she was introduced to me a long time ago by someone whose taste I trust. I remember loving her debut album. But, I kind of lost touch with her work. For my taste, her recordings took a weirder, more personal note. I much prefer her singing nuggets from The Great American Songbook. Then came her new album, a tribute to Eartha Kitt, one of my all-time favorites. I thought it was an odd choice, since Kitt was more a sophisticated song stylist while Marie is more down and earthy jazz. But the test of a good artist is that one can celebrate another without losing her identity. Rene Maries shines as Rene Marie in this album, and at the same time she celebrates the legacy of Eartha Kitt. Over the Holidays, one of my most favorite tracks to listen to was her version here of "Santa Baby." Instead of mimickign the bouncy arrangement that Kitt made famous, Marie slowed it down, and the result is a more contemplative, sober take on this great Christmas song. She infuses the lyrics with silence - at times I thought I was listening to Shirley Horn - and the plea becomes more assured, less insecure. It reinvents the song. She gives the same treatment to most of the rest of the covers: "Cest Si Bon" loses the arch and is more jazzy. "Let's Do it" is sung more syncopated, and even though I missed the lyrical Porter here, she makes the beat the star, and it works. That woudl not usually be my cup of tea, but I didn't mind it here. There's a hotness in "I Wanna Be Evil" that I caught on here differently. This is one of those late-at-night recordings for me: lights off, eyes closed, I can bask in her musicality in this album. And then I make a mental note to listen to Eartha in the morning. What better tribute?

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