Virginia native and Atlanta resident Rene Marie is a recognizable, fairly unpredictable jazz vocalist who -- depending on her mood -- can be quirky and playful one minute, but bluesy or soulful the next. The singer, who is blessed with an impressive range, has a variety of influences. Marie shows her appreciation of Betty Carter on some of her quirkier performances, while her more bluesy and soulful leanings underscore her fondness of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, and Nancy Wilson.
For many years, Marie wasn't aggressively pursuing a career in music. Born in Warrenton, Virginia, on November 7, 1955, she grew up in the Roanoke area and raised her two sons there. When they were growing up, she put jazz on the back burner but occasionally sang at friends' weddings; Marie felt that she was too busy being a parent to pursue a career as a singer. Then, in 1995 (when she turned 40), Marie's sons (who were attending college at that point) encouraged her to sing professionally. At first, she was hesitant, but eventually, she took their advice. In 1997, she released her debut CD, Renaissance. Two years later, she landed a gig at Washington, D.C.'s famous Blues Alley.
Around this time, she signed with the St. Louis-based MAXJAZZ label. How Can I Keep from Singing?, her first MAXJAZZ release, came out in 2000, followed by Vertigo in 2001. Both of those CDs were produced by acoustic pianist Bruce Barth. Vertigo earned top honors at the number one spot on the Gavin jazz charts, also going Top Ten on the college charts in both the U.S. and Canada. Several more MAXJAZZ releases followed, including Live at the Jazz Standard in 2003 and Serene Renegade with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt in 2004. A year later, Marie collaborated with the Imani Winds for Classical Underground.
In 2011, Marie marked her move to the Motema Music label with the release of two albums, Black Lace Freudian Slip and Voice of My Beautiful Country. Three years later, she paid homage to legendary vocalist Eartha Kitt on I Wanna Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt. In 2016, Marie delivered Sound of Red, her first album of all-original material. ~ Alex Henderson