The fourth album by Virginia-born, Atlanta-based jazz vocalist/songwriter Rene Marie is her most quirky and idiosyncratic set yet, and therefore possibly the one truest to herself. Marie wrote nine of the 11 songs herself, the two covers being the unexpected pairing of the standard "Lover Man" (most often associated with Billie Holiday, a singer Marie otherwise has little in common with) and, of all things, a West Coast cool ballad version of "A Hard Day's Night" featuring an extended bass solo. On the originals, Marie channels elements of Ran Blake (the Boston-based pianist whose cerebral deconstructions of cool jazz Marie's own solos occasionally recall), Nina Simone (especially on the startlingly direct, partially a cappella closer, "Ode to a Flower"), and even Joni Mitchell's mid- to late-'70s work. The opening "Red Shoes," a song of sisterly celebration, would not sound out of place on Mitchell's Hejira, or on one of Carla Bley's more straightforward albums. Although she's a canny arranger and an exceedingly talented piano player (talents exhibited on the witty, samba-fied "Rufast Daliarg"), Rene Marie is first and foremost a singer, and it's the warmth of her voice, which matches crisp diction la Simone with the husky sensuality of a Nancy Wilson, that makes the aptly titled Serene Renegade so appealing.
Reviews"Stunning. Simply, utterly, stunning." - Jazz Times