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Chester County Press

Rene Marie steals the show, but not the wine, at Longwood festival

06/08/2015 01:29PM ● By J. Chambless

John Pizzarelli played two sets on the Orchard Stage at this year's Wine & Jazz Festival at Longwood Gardens.

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer
At precisely 7 p.m. this past Saturday evening, on a day that had already been given over to the twin delights of great wine and cool jazz, Grammy Award-winning vocalist Rene Marie and her band took the stage at the Open Air Theatre at the annual Longwood Gardens Wine & Jazz Festival. 
For the next hour, she and her pianist, drummer and bass player ripped through a set that was equal parts soul, gospel and inspirational, leaving the audience of 1,500 simply spellbound. In support of a new CD, "I Wanna Be Evil," which was nominated for a 2015 Best Jazz Vocal Grammy, Marie, channeling her idol Eartha Kitt, spun a kaleidoscope of colors, imagery and emotions, choosing songs that made more than a few exhausted concert-goers dance. 
“Any time you have a chance to dance, you shouldn't let it pass you by,” Marie cajoled. As the set drew to a close, Marie chose the gorgeous “Blessings,” an anthem of hope and promise, in tribute to her late brother, drawing the audience to their feet as the last notes were played.
Although Marie's performance may have drawn the highest praise, it was just part of a festival that lasted more than six hours. After an early-afternoon sprinkle threatened to send concert-goers home, the weather suddenly turned bright and breezy, with temperatures that barely broke 80 degrees. 
Eight individual acts, ranging from local musicians to those with worldwide acclaim, played at five different venues, including the Flower Garden Walk, the Peirce-du Pont House, the East Plaza, the Open Air Theatre, and the Orchard Stage. 
The festival featured one performance by saxophonist Korey Riker, who has performed with The Roots, John Legend, Queen Latifah and Elvis Costello; and the John Pizzarelli Quartet. Pizzarelli, the son of the legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, was joined by his brother and two other members of his quartet for two sets that provided a tour of the great American songbook, with songs made popular by Nat “King” Cole and Frank Sinatra.
Like hot dogs and baseball, there are few partnerships in the American lexicon more understandably joined at the hip than jazz and wine, and this year's festival made sure that the more than 5,000 in attendance received a little lubrication with their jazz menu. Throughout the day, 15 Pennsylvania-based vineyards doled out samples, glasses and bottles at three different stations. Among the Chester County vineyards on hand were the Chaddsford Winery, Paradocx Winery, Black Walnut Winery and Ten Gallon Hat Winery.  
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].