Water. She'd be perfect as a water goddess, though she's also been given the moniker of "priestess," something she admits to finding funny but liking, imagining herself "in white robe and machete, hacking a way through the jungle for all those who care to seek with me."
Perhaps featuring her as a water goddess was an act of fate. Her latest album, Jean Rohe & the End of the World Show, is a collection of previously unrecorded songs from "intervening years...loosely joined by a nautical theme." Illustrated by Melanie Ida Chopko, the record cover even shows the singer standing rigidly on a boat, holding an oar, floating over wavy waters.
And on that evening, the sparkling lit backdrop and front spotlights of Joe's Pub's stage created an impression of an unfolding underwater scene,bathing the performer in cool hues of green and blue, perhaps like at dusk or twilight when the first rays of light pierce the brim of the darkness of the deep.
Yet there is something else about her that conjures images of rain, of a wandering brook, of soft shores and deep oceans. She projects fluidity and calm. Her presence on stage betrays a type of personality that encourages familiarity. She has an ease about her; a genuine, casual smile like you've seen flashed by a neighbor from across the hall as you both scuttle off to work, or by the young woman who helped scan your books at the library, or by the sprightly lass who handed you the pin to wear at a rally.
The Music of Thought
Jean Rohe launched the official release of her new record at Manhattan's Joe's Pub last October, entering downstage right amidst the clumsy, asynchronous claps of her audience. The set began with Umbrella. Deliberately staged by the master of ceremonies, the welcome applause was intended to mimic rain, harmonious in its syncopated pitter patter.(The same could be argued about jazz and the heart, too.)
But as is the case with many collective undertakings, participants found themselves tripping out of discord, moving instead in unison with the group, despite whatever initial intentions and resolve they had.
And so there lies the awkwardness. When is it time to go with the flow and when must one remain off pace with the universal drumbeat? Or perhaps one might merely give up, ceasing to participate altogether, secretly having convinced oneself "better first to be first, rather than last to be last", even if that meant that one is first to give up, or first to watch by the sidelines.
For social animals after all, fitting in is instinctual and often even necessary. To stand out well means one needs to be stronger than the current, and if need be, to be bigger than the whole. It is a proposition that either proves gloriously fateful or deplorably fatal. This is especially true for performers who care about their art, or citizens who care about their future. Thankfully, this 29-year old Brooklyn resident successfully stands and stands out.
She once shared a stage with John McCain, speaking at her graduation at The New School in 2006 where she graduated with a B.A. in Cultural Studies and a B.F.A. in Jazz Vocal Performance.
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