While artists such as Norah Jones and Jane Monheit have attracted a fresh fanbase to vocal jazz, few other performers have been as readily and wholeheartedly accepted as newcomer René Marie. Though the fortysomething singer embarked on a serious music career only six years ago at the urging of one of her two sons, Marie has already attracted the attention of a number of high-profile champions. Her second album, 2001's Vertigo, features a backing band that includes jazz piano great Mulgrew Miller along with bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Jeff Watts, both of whom are established bandleaders in their own right. Blessed with a voice that delicately balances subtlety with a warm presence and, at times, astounding power, Marie also takes more than her share of risks. Whether twisting the Beatles' "Blackbird" into a hypnotically ethereal, percussion-driven chant or merging a chilling cover of "Dixie" with the Billie Holiday anti-lynching anthem "Strange Fruit," Marie possesses a purposeful flair for drama and a soulful sense of seduction.