The South Carolina Music Guide
Show Reviews

Rene’ Marie Leaves Her Mark on Spoleto

Spoleto 2014 has arrived in Charleston! Events are happening all over town, with plays, acrobatics, orchestral, folk and jazz concerts entertaining thousands of people who have come from all over the country and world to participate in this annual event. The South Carolina Music Guide had an opportunity to see Rene Marie at the TD Arena, located at the College of Charleston. Rene is a talented songwriter who hails from Virginia. Her musical career began when she was 42 and she signed quickly with the Maxjazz label. She has found success in her new career, publishing 4 albums and receiving a coronet ranking by The Penguin Guide to Jazz. Only 85 artists in the history of jazz have been awarded this honor.

Rene was joined on stage with one of our favorite local jazz drummers, Quentin Baxter, who is well known for his delicate yet powerfully emotional percussion skills. Baxter grew up in the area and played drums as a youth in church (as did his entire family), and furthered his formal training at the University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Theory and Composition. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston and is the music director for the Charleston Jazz Initiative. While he’s worked with a wide variety of great jazz artists, he tours and travels the world frequently these days with the fabulous Rene Marie. Needless to say, having one of our favorite local jazz artists join Rene Marie at home for their last performance of their tour in a sensual tribute to Eartha Kitt was going to be one of the most anticipated experiences this year.

As soon as Rene Marie approached the stage she introduced her core musical cast, including Kevin Bales (piano), Elias Bailey (bass) and Baxter (percussion, washboards, and drums). She brought out her newest addition of a horn section that added a heightened sense of sexuality and mood. Frankly, we were amazed at the sexual vibes coming from instruments in support of the already suggestive lyrics that were dripping from Rene’s talented tongue. No pun intended. Or maybe it was!

One of the musicians in the horn section was Wycliffe Gordon on the slide trumpet and trombone. As Marie sang wistfully to Eartha Kitt’s song Oh John, Gordon handled the mouthpiece of his trombone in a masterful tribute to the lyrics. Almost as if in response to the lyrics, Gordon provided a soundtrack suggesting what Marie was protesting when she sang:

“Oh John, please don’t kiss me
Oh John, please don’t kiss
Oh John, please don’t
Oh John, please
Oh John
Oooh

Oh John, please don’t hold me
Oh John, please don’t
Oh John, please don’t
Oh John, please
Oh John
Oooh

I keep thinking we only met an hour or two ago
Though I like you, I mustn’t let you
No, no, no, no, no

Oh John, please go home now
Oh John, please go home
Oh John, please go
Oh John, please
Oh John
Oooh

(Orchestral Break)

Oh John, please go home now
Oh John, please go home
Oh John, please go
Oh John, please
Oh John
Oooooh “

Needless to say, Marie and Gordon had the entire stadium captivated in a flux of discomfort as well as an appreciation for the musicians’ provocative nature. At the end of the song, Gordon again showed us his ability to provide depth in conclusion of such a beautifully constructed ensemble with a singularly anticlimactic last few bars. Their chemistry was simply undeniable.

Etienne Charles played trumpet and percussion throughout the set. His beautiful tones added a different nuance to My Heart Belongs to Daddy, as Rene Marie croons about how she couldn’t be bad. As we watched and listened to their interaction, we could virtually see how the protagonist teases others, such as the caddy or a boy coming for dinner. With her wiles, she stays honest and true to her Daddy, as he fulfills her needs so well.

Adrian Cunningham, a young hot Australian who catered to Marie’s needs throughout the evening, is the final horn player rounding out the section playing tenor sax, clarinet and flute. He taunted and teased us with his genius in songs like Let’s Do It. His playful interaction with Marie as she sang, “Birds do it. Bees do it. Even uneducated fleas do it! Let’s do it. Let’s fall in love,” showed off a comfortableness with public performance unmatched by the others. His youthful vibrancy shone throughout the evening’s show in the other songs as well.

Peel Me A Grape was one of the most popular songs of the evening, as the entire musical ensemble came together to provide us with one of Eartha Kitt’s most famous songs. Others included I’d Rather Be Burned As A Witch, C’est si Bon, Come on-a My House, and Weekend. The evening was closed out with Eartha’s song that many of us can relate to, especially after such a powerfully suggestive and well performed set, I Wanna Be Evil. In my estimation, many of us went home embracing our own longings and wishes with the memory of that fading trombone lingering in our ears.   What a fantastic and unexpected show!

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