On her 2013 Grammy-nominated album, I Wanna Be Evil—With Love to Eartha Kitt, vocalist René Marie relied on material associated with the exotic Kitt, such as her signature tune “C’est Si Bon” and Cole Porter’s romantic “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.” Marie, like Kitt, often sings with a certain attitude in her voice and both have been known to speak their minds.
This time out, Marie turns inward for a disc of all original material that is primarily autobiographical. She’s said that it “attempts to cover the spectrum of human emotion.”
The album opens in good form with Marie in a typical sultry state of mind on the title cut, “Sound of Red.” Saxophonist Sherman Irby joins in the mood, adding some edgy punctuations to a tune that stands as the highlight of the album. Marie chuckles a bit in appreciation of his solo.
The trio of bassist Elias Bailey, drummer Quentin E. Baxter and pianist John Chin provide solid backing for Marie’s vocal explorations. Chin really impresses with his range of ideas and multi-note executions on “If You Were Mine.” He takes it to a toe-tapping experience that gets a bump from trumpeter Etienne Charles.
Storytelling is definitely a strong element of Sound of Red, though occasionally the wordy lyrics become a distraction. Marie surprisingly goes country on “This Is (Not) a Protest Song,” which talks about homelessness.
René Marie is in an unexpected mode on Sound of Red. As always, she has something to say, but this time out she offers her thoughts with less punch and more poetry.