On the eve of the London Jazz Festival René Marie last night made her London debut at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, the first of three nights in the Dean Street basement spot.

The Virginia-born singer whose reputation as a sassy and highly original performer has exploded in recent years was appearing with her touring band of pianist Albert Sanz, bassist Alex Davis, and drummer Stephen Keogh. Marie’s first set of the two she performed last night opened with an a cappella medley before delivering one of the big highlights of the evening, a reading of Dave Frishberg’s ‘Peel Me a Grape.’

Later Cole Porter’s ‘My Heart Belongs To Daddy’ zinged along and was as good live as it is on her latest Motéma album I Wanna Be Evil (With Love to Eartha Kitt), while 'Oh John' was an opportunity for her to tease the double entendres out of a lyric, she told the audience, that she likes to explore. 

Marie has a pingingly-pure voice and sells every note of the song establishing great eye contact with the audience. It's swinging stuff, intelligently pitched, and naughty but nice for sure. SG
René Marie's first London residency continues tonight on the opening night of the festival before concluding tomorrow. www.pizzaexpresslive.co.uk

Above: the sign in the window of the Pizza Express Jazz Club's upstairs restaurant