Rene Marie is not a “chick singer” covering standards. Even the thought of that at this stage of her career likely would drive her batty. The singer-songwriter is a lady with attitude. This is a good thing; it enhances her music by making it personal. On track two, “This is for Joe,” she admits as much: “I can’t compete. I can’t be a good girl and sing standards all nice and sweet.” The heart-on-her-sleeve song is a dandy, except for the opening sentence. She has proven that she can compete.
The creative gem here is the clever title track, which delves into the challenges of being an artful singer. Marie even throws a jab towards the critics among us: “Ah, the media and the critics blah-blah-blah in my ear. Oh I’ve sat out there but have you ever stood up here?” …. You get the picture. Her oldest son, Michael A. Crone, joins her on vocals on his original, the blues “Deep in the Mountains.” Check out this fine recording. There is much to savor. Understand going in that you’ll find no standards, not tired tunes, no covers. Hallelujah.
The New World Jazz Composers Octet, Breaking News (Big and Phat Jazz Productions)
Saxophonist Daniel Ian Smith formed the octet in 2000 as a vehicle for recording and performing material by the Boston area’s many fine jazz composers. This is the group’s third recording, and it is robust both in the range of quality material and in the performances of those nine compositions. The band often sounds more like a full big band than an octet. Lovers of hard bop will dig the blistering and funky title track, which trumpeter Walter Platt wrote as a tip of the hat to Horace Silver and Shorty Rogers. Saxophonist Ted Pease provided a diverse trilogy paying homage to three of his favorite composers: “Thad’s Pad” for Thad Jones, “Strays” for Billy Strayhorn and “Willis” for Bill Holman. The depth and the nuance throughout Breaking News are a combined joy to behold.
Matt Wilson, Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O (Palmetto)
One strong candidate is Matt Wilson’s cleverly titled 2010 recording that featured the drummer (and cover photographer) with two longtime collaborators, saxophonist Jeff Lederer and bassist Paul Sikivie. They put a spirited spin on 14 Christmas tunes – all classic in their own way (ranging from standard fare to “The Chipmunk Song,” “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch,” “Mele Kalikimaki” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here” from the Charlie Brown Christmas special). The treatment of these is anything but traditional. The music is intense and the solos are wild at times, playful at others, as Wilson & Co. present this swinging musical Christmas gift.