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The Washington Post (US)
Friday, May 11, 1984

Ellen Amos: The Marbury Woman

by Roger Piantadosi

There was music coming out of this newish-looking brick building on M Street the other night -- a sultry female voice, singing something by Stevie Nicks. Coming right out of the building, it seemed. My companion and I exchanged unknowing looks. We remained cool, however, because this was Georgetown, and we were already on thin ice.

Underdressed, that is: no feathers, no leather, no wet look. Just jeans with only one zipper apiece, and shirts with buttons. Cautiously, we investigated.

Glad we did.

The musical building, at the corner of 30th and M, is the Marbury House -- a rather low-visibility, 164-room hotel under recent new ownership. Since they appeared about three years ago, the Marbury's brick arches and covered driveway haven't said a whole lot to passersby. Nowadays, however, they say more. Or sing, actually.

The music comes through speakers, from the Marbury's Lion's Gate Taverne inside -- a relatively tiny, undistinguished hotel bar made substantially more distinguished by the source of that voice: one Ellen Amos. Age: 20. Appearance: 10 (as in the movie). Energy level: 7.5 (as in Richter).

Amos, who is also occasionally known as Tori, may very well be a famous pop star someday. An accomplished pianist and gutsy singer, this Rockville minister's daughter entered the Peabody Conservatory at age five but dropped out at 11 because, among other things, she was prone to apply a Beatles sensibility to Beethoven sonatas.

The other night, she demonstrated this happy sacrilege by whipping Beethoven's Sonata in F Minor into something even a fat man in a blue business suit could dance to. (The man in the suit, however, preferred merely to turn around in his seat and wink. This happens a lot -- but less often after 10 p.m., when more people come specifically to listen to Amos, and fewer wear suits).

Amos has been on the lounge circuit around Washington since she was (no lie) 13; now that she no longer has to arrive at work with a legal guardian, she's been to the West Coast twice this year for some exploratory studio work. For the time being, however, she can be found -- free of admission, and free of pretension -- every Monday through Friday night, 6 till about 11:30, at the baby grand amid the 50 soft seats of the Lion's Gate.

Singing her heart out, mostly, and possibly yours.

My companion leaned over to whisper to me as Amos sipped hot tea from a wine glass after playing two requests -- "Tiny Dancer" and (I didn't believe it either) "The Marine Corps Hymn" -- plus a funky original (of which she has no end). Amos did all three with much feeling and finesse.

"Don't tell anyone about this place," said my friend.

Sure. Lion's Gate Taverne -- At the Marbury House Hotel, 3000 M Street NW. Open 4 p.m. to about 1 a.m. daily. No food (available downstairs in Tom & Jimmy's Restaurant until 10:30 p.m.); drink prices are reasonable for a hotel -- especially one in Georgetown. No live entertainment Saturday or Sunday, but hotel manager Louis Marcus says it's planned, and probably live jazz. Tables outside -- under the speakers -- in nice weather. Brunch on Sundays (this Sunday with Amos at the piano). 726-5000.

Marbury House flyer

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