Music News

Rene Marie Requires No Airbrushing

For her latest album, Experiment in Truth, jazz singer Rene Marie and her band set up shop in an auditorium at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. Gathered in a circle on the stage, they recorded 23 songs in two days.

"If one person hits a wrong note, just like a concert, keep going. Don't stop," she recalls of the sessions. "That was the feeling I wanted. I didn't want it to be airbrushed. That's not real music to me. It's like when you're first intimate with somebody, and the clothes have covered up this and covered up that. And then you disrobe and you're like, 'OK, here it all is.' We wanted this honest sound to come through. Because when you are making love, if you're all concerned about this sound you're making or this expression, how can you really benefit from what's going on, or what's supposed to be going on? So that's how we approach our music, and how we approached the recording."

To that end, Experiment in Truth feels like live recording without an audience. It's a superb collection of Marie originals, including a re-worked version of "Vertigo," an ode to Nina Simone and "This is (Not) a Protest Song," a song about homelessness, which was inspired by her brother, who is a homeless painter. The album also features a few covers, including a solemn interpretation of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page," which she recorded first thing in the morning on the second day of recording. Marie did four takes of the song, but decided to go with the first one, where her voice was a bit hoarse. "I thought, this how you feel if you've been on the road day after day," she explains.

Marie certainly knows about being on the road. Although now based in Denver, she's traveled her fair share since she first started singing professionally in the mid-'90s. At the urging of her brother, who told her, "You need to jump, and the net will appear," she quit her job at a Virginia bank. That was on a Friday. The following Tuesday, she got a call from a theater company that was desparately in need of a singer for a ten-week production. The gig was ideal, since it gave her time to work on compositions at night and book shows for herself, as well. At a performance in Washington, D.C., she caught the ear of MaxJazz's founder Richard McDonnell, who went on to issue four of Marie's albums.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon