Rene Marie:

Since Orin has flagged his nominee for most underrated jazz vocalist, I will give a shout out to my favorite jazz vocalist, Rene Marie.

Before our baby was born I saw her 3 times in the span of 18 months--every show was completely different and each was absolutely extraordinary. She is the single best live performer I have ever seen, regardless of the genre. Her cd's are great, but if you ever get the chance to see her live, do it. Her rendition of a medley of Dixie and Strange Fruit (on Vertigo) is absolutely compelling. Serene Renegade, her most recent cd, has several of her own compositions.

Her personal story is quite extraordinary as well--she didn't start her career until she turned 40. There's a passing reference in this interview with her. Here's a newspaper story describing her career.

As for Erin Bode, Orin's nominee--I had never heard her before, but I'm listening to her right now and I say "Thanks Orin" for the tip! Like Erin Bode, Rene Marie is on the Maxjazz label. She is a bit more Ella Fitzgerald than Norah Jones.