This article was first published in November of 2003.
Review by Joshua Maloni
It's insulting to compare local musicians to mainstream acts these days.
The latest defense of this statement came recently at Niagara University, when Rochester's Jennifer Marie unloaded a musical assault on students simply incomparable with the drivel heard on radio and television.
The fact that so-called music industry "masterminds" have allowed the Hillary Duffs, John Mayers and yes, the Britney Spears of the world to infiltrate our cars and workplaces, while someone with Jennifer Marie's talent and prowess is unsigned, is an embarrassment to the world of music. Should those artists or their similar brethren catch wind of Marie's music, they will have no recourse but to hang their heads in shame for clogging up the dial with their garbage. Simply put: It's a musically anorexic time.
But enough about them.
What makes Jennifer Marie so much better than these artists is her many rich layers of sound and substance. She has dark and edgy sides; she has pop-rock and slow-rock numbers; she can sing an acoustic version of Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee" so powerful it sends grown men off crying.
On Friday, with more fanfare than perhaps expected within the intimate "Rockin' the Ratt" setting, Marie performed more than a dozen songs, works from her previous releases and from her upcoming "This Is It" album. When this writer saw her last, she was adorned in rock star garb, but not this night. Marie's get-up was wilder, yet very lady-like: a black dress and black biker boots, her hair was more red than blonde, and she was surrounded by both candles and strobe lights.
The singer wasted no time in bringing new meaning to the phrase "chops," assaulting her keyboard with such vigor, one expected the instrument to just flip into the crowd at any moment. Marie's arms flailed, her legs kicked and feet stomped the pedals with such spirit, one had to wonder if at any moment she would just explode in a blast of passion.
The NU students responded in turn: singing, clapping and shouting for encores.
Marie describes the past year-plus as a "crazy journey." Indeed, she uprooted from this area and moved into the New York City area to work with new collaborators. She says it was to make her sound "edgier." That work has already borne fruit, as demonstrated by the excited students. In fact, some of her songs, "Too Much to Take," for example, are especially haunting.
Her music now includes loops and other bits of electronica, which don't take away from the bare voice/piano combination. Rather, her music has become even more satisfying and filling.
At the conclusion of Marie's set, those same students waited around to meet Marie and offer approval for what they heard: anything but plain, and miles above that of her more famous contemporaries.