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Jorja Smith Re-Centers Marlena Shaw In Cover Of St. Germain's 'Rose Rouge'

Marlena Shaw isn't quite a household name. However, most crate-diggers and audiophiles will recall "Woman of the Ghetto" brimming with soulful staccato breaks against deep and rare grooves. The version she recorded while at Blue Note Records — signing on as the label's first female vocalist in 1972 — was later sampled in 2000 on the soulfully frenetic track "Rose Rouge," produced by French musician St. Germain. Now, a cover of "Rose Rouge" by the rising U.K. star Jorja Smith honors Shaw's unheralded contributions in jazz, especially (and notably) during her tenure at the traditionally androcentric Blue Note.

Smith injects added vigor, ensuring that Shaw's presence is both heard and felt within the infectious piano loops and driving cymbal beat: "I want you to get together, put your hands together one time." On the lead single for the compilation Blue Note Re:imagined (out Oct. 2) , Smith enlists an arsenal of talented new voices in British jazz, including James Allsopp on reeds, trumpeter James Copus and Ezra Collective drummer Femi Koleoso, her collaborator on 2018's Lost & Found. Together they reimagine Shaw's "Ghetto" as a global call to prayer for the disenfranchised.

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Shannon J. Effinger
Shannon J. Effinger has been a freelance arts journalist for more than a decade. Her writing on all things jazz and music regularly appears in Pitchfork, Bandcamp, Jazziz, Jazzwise, and Downbeat. As of the fall of 2020, her arts coverage can also be found in The New York Times and The Washington Post; the latter features her Sunday arts cover story on Marshall Allen, the longtime leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra.