Hot Chicks & Cool Cats, 1

Marianne Jean-Baptiste

Marianne Jean-Baptiste

Years ago I fired off a piece about Joni Mitchell in another venue. A bunch of rock stars had justed voted her in 5th place in a ranking of woman musicians, behind Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt and others. I opined as to how that was pretty dumb, considering Mitchell’s body of work in respect of range, originality, sheer artistry and so forth. Or words to that effect.

I felt kind o’ dumb later on, thinking who was I to diminish those other women in the slightest — treasures, every one of them — and how I’d inadvertently bought into the whole “what is worst and what is best” mentality. I resolved to make amends by paying tribute to Aretha & Co.

I haven’t quite gotten around to that, but in the meantime I’ve hatched another project: Giving credit to people I like who are in the public eye, but who have yet to receive their just due.

I enjoy many of the law and order shows that have populated TV in recent years, though lately I’ve yearned for more variety, a broader sampling of the available genres. In a time when the disparities between the haves and have-nots is ever widening, I worry whether all the prime time crime is our take on Big Brother. (Now, if we could only harness the torque on Orwell.)

That aside, television has lately given us a bevy of fine programs which, among many positives, allow us to explore the state of things among the criminal class.

One of the best is Without a Trace.

The writing is tight, the editing taut. The actors are terrific and make up a wonderful ensemble. There are many good things one can say about every member of this attractive cast.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste has won my heart, though, and I have wondered why.

With a fine artistry, she seems to effortlessly convey warmth, strength, humor, candor, quiet dignity and sterling integrity — all in the course of going about another day’s work for the FBI.

I have come to love her and feel compelled to watch the subtle play of her gestures, curious to see how she will take in and respond to the all-too-real horrors the team confronts while searching for those who have gone missing.

I see a grandeur in her that might be easy to miss because, like many classic artists, this lovely woman has brushed away all traces of art.

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