When I went: 13 October 2017
Location: Ronnie Scott’s, London
Performers: René Marie (vocals), Elias Bailey (bass), Quentin Baxter (drummer), John Chin (piano); support act Artie Zaitz quartet – Artie Zaitz (guitar), Ross Stanley (keys including Hammond organ), Steve Brown (drums), Dave Pattman (congas)
Creative team: René Marie (some music and lyrics), Artie Zaitz (some music), Ravel (Bolero music), Leonard Cohen, Lionel Richie, Larry Shay, Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin, Eartha Kitt (some music and lyrics)
Special points: Virtuosic solos
éBest bit: Bolero / Suzanne
If I could change one thing: More interesting food
Sometimes you go to a concert and in the middle of it you find yourself so impressed that you know that you’ll be downloading the music afterwards and thinking and talking about it for some time to come. I don’t know anywhere near as much about jazz as I do about classical music and musical theatre, but after attending this concert and experiencing the quality of some of the performers at Ronnie Scott’s, I’d really like to learn more.
The support act was the Artie Zaitz Quartet, who mostly performed original songs with a good mix of lighter and more serious introspective numbers, featuring some amazing solos. Artie described Dave Pattman’s congas as their ‘secret weapon’ and it was cool to see a quartet in a slightly unusual formation (electric guitar, keys including Hammond organ), drum kit and congas. They even played a jazzy version of ‘Happy Birthday’ for the patrons in the house who were celebrating. It was great to see the engagement between the performers onstage, who genuinely seemed to love performing together and really appreciated each other’s talents.
René Marie emerged onstage by singing an a cappella version of a blend of Lionel Richie’s Smile and When You’re Smiling (written by Larry Shay, Mark Fisher and Joe Goodwin and made famous by Louis Armstrong), which neatly showcased both her personality and the velvety textures of her vocals. Once her instrumentalists had joined the stage, they performed mostly original material with some brilliant sparkling solos (especially from John Chin on piano). Sound of Red, the title track from René’s album, built to a shimmering climax and showcased all the instrumentalists as well as René’s vocals. If You Were Mine described the longing for someone you are not married to, again illustrating the cheeky side of René’s personality, which also came out in the (forced) audience participation in the whistling in Colorado River Song.
They also did a cover of Eartha Kitt’s I Wanna Be Evil, which was very polished, but my favourite song was the blend of Ravel’s Bolero (itself an absolute classic if you like French classical music) with Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne (the Roberta Flack version). The ‘mash-up’ was very successful in terms of musical construction, and the performers were all so engaged in the song that the overall performance was really, really impressive.