— Featured On NPR “All Things Considered”, The Dazzling Jazz Singer and Off-Broadway Star Will Feature Caribbean Trumpet Star Etienne Charles —
New York, NY — René Marie – singer, actress, writer. Eartha Kitt – singer, actress, writer. Never before has there been a vocal recording tipping the hat to the divine Ms. Kitt and her fiery, sensual and clever interpretations of songs. With her incredible range of vocal ability, her powerful emotional resonance and strong independent streak, René is the right artist to conceive of this historic project called I Wanna Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt. It’s René’s third recording for the Grammy-nominated Motéma Music label in Harlem and her 10th career album. The release follows her acclaimed fall Off-Broadway show and was featured on NPR All Things Considered. René comes into Jazz at Lincoln Center’s venue Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola after a triumphant performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where she received three standing ovations.
This brilliantly entertaining album burnishes René’s reputation as the most provocative risk-taker among today’s jazz divas. Eartha Kitt’s daughter Kitt Shapiro, who maintains her mother’s legacy via EarthaKitt.com and the company Simply Eartha, expressed her appreciation: “It’s wonderful that such a talented artist like René Marie has recorded the first tribute album to my mother, helping to keep her memory and spirit alive. These classic songs deserve to be heard and loved by all generations.”
I Wanna Be Evil features classic Eartha Kitt songs like “C’est Si Bon,” “Peel Me a Grape,” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and lesser-known mischievous gems like “I’d Rather Be Burned As A Witch” and “I Wanna Be Evil.”
René shares more about her inspiration for the project:
“Eartha Kitt is one of America’s strongest iconic figures. She was an inspiring artist, a strong woman and an essential activist in different ways. She was homeless when she first moved to New York City yet became a star. She was a sensual and powerful woman in a man’s world at a time when most women were in the background, not front and center. She was a black actress in Hollywood at a time when most black actors were given subservient roles yet here she was – Catwoman. She challenged President Johnson on the Vietnam War and paid a price for her outspokenness. She unabashedly shared her sensual self and her fierce self and was just herself – simply Eartha. That alone, I have learned, can be the most radical act, especially if you are a woman. As Eartha states in one of her famous ‘Kittisms’: The price you pay for being yourself is worth it.”
It’s hard to believe it all started for René after she turned 40, but that is what has allowed her to unabashedly be herself just like Eartha. She has won many fans for her audaciousness but has also received strong criticism. Her well-known medley of “Strange Fruit” and “Dixie” wowed many but also stirred the pot on America’s history of slavery and Southern race relations. Her choice to sing the black national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” (set to the melody of the “Star Spangled Banner”) when the Mayor of Denver John Hickenlooper asked René – one of Denver’s high profile resident artists at the time – to open the State of the City address in 2008 spurred a significant backlash, right wing criticism and even death threats.
Yet René stood strong. Her daring makes her one of America’s most interesting and compelling artists. So do her influences. Her style incorporates a distinctly American mélange of jazz, soul, blues, folk and gospel and an innate theatrical ability to interpret a song deeply and live its truth. An actress as well as a vocalist, René starred Off-Broadway in New York City October 12-13 and 18 and 20, 2013, as part of the All for One Theater Festival at the Cherry Lane Theatre in a one-woman play she wrote. In typical fashion, she raised eyebrows just with the title itself – “Slut Energy Theory – U’Dean.” The meaning becomes clear and intensely significant as the audience – and critics alike – find themselves transformed by her play about U’Dean, a woman on a painful yet sometimes funny journey from sexual abuse to self-esteem.
René also is a woman of great strength and humor who walked a similar journey. Married at 18, a mother of two by 23 and a Jehovah’s Witness, she only occasionally sang. When her husband of 23 years issued an ultimatum to stop singing or leave, she chose music over the turbulent marriage and self-released her debut Renaissance in 1998 and toured as Ella Fitzgerald in a regional play. She began experiencing a whirlwind of success rarely seen in the jazz world, winning over critics; receiving awards such as the Best International Jazz Vocal CD (besting Cassandra Wilson and Joni Mitchell) by France’s Academie Du Jazz; gracing the Billboard charts multiple times; and becoming a headliner at major international festivals. A gifted songwriter, her previous Motéma release, Black Lace Freudian Slip, features blues-heavy originals. Her label debut, Voice of My Beautiful Country, is an ambitious celebration of Americana and a striking display of her incredible ability to forge connections between songs most would never think to merge.
For René Marie, success means shining attention on important issues in America and on bold artists like Eartha Kitt who helped change America’s landscape for the better. René has become one of those bold artists.
WHAT THE MEDIA IS SAYING:
“She’s got moxie.” — Essence Magazine
“Ms. Marie has a smart, clear voice; she pushes her principles to the front of her work and playfully demands respect.” — New York Times
4/26 – New Orleans Jazz Festival, New Orleans, LA
5/14 – Side Door Jazz Club, Old Lyme, CT
5/15-18 – Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC
5/22 – World Café Live at the Queen, Wilmington, DE
5/23 – Westminster Canturbury, Richmond, VA
5/24 – Kennedy Center Mary Lou Williams Festival, Washington, DC
5/26 – Spoleto Festival, Charleston, SC
7/23-25 – San Sebastian, Spain –Jazz Festival
Jana La Sorte/Janlyn PR