Jazz Notes: Celebrated Jazz Vocalist Dianne Reeves Returns to Jazz at Lincoln Center for Her Valentine’s Blessings on February 9 and 10
By Dan Ouellette, Senior Editor ZEALnyc, February 7, 2018
It’s become a tradition. Dianne Reeves, jazz’s esteemed reigning vocalist, returns to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall to celebrate Valentine’s Day, even though her two-night showcase takes places the weekend before the Lover’s Holiday. But the five-time Grammy winner—described as an intuitive and authentic jazz singer and in her early years already a classic—will turn on the love and romance for her captivating shows that will serve as a prelude.
Love has been a theme in her music since she prominently launched her longtime career with Blue Note Records in 1987 when label head Bruce Lundvall finally caught one of her live shows and proclaimed her “one of the greatest singers I’d ever heard in my life.” Ten years ago, in a conversation regarding the repertoire on her 2008 album When You Know, Reeves said that love led her to choose the set list: “All these songs represent different periods of love. [The Temptations’ Motown song] ‘Just My Imagination,’ for example, is a song of youth. It’s sweet, melodic, simple, but it holds deep meaning, especially at a time when you’re just beginning to really feel love. As I progress in the record, the love starts to change with different characteristics and the changing times.”
Since that love fest, Reeves has kept the sweet soul of romance in her music while she has achieved the heights of the jazz genre. On April 16, she will be honored with the National Endowment for the Arts’ prestigious Jazz Masters award in a ceremony at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (other honorees in the class of 2018 include Pat Metheny, Joanne Brackeen and impresario Todd Barkan). Also impressive is her two honorary doctorates, one from the Berklee College of Music in 2003 and from the Juilliard School in 2015. In 2008, she also served as the inaugural Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the first vocalist to perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Reeves was jettisoned into the mainstream when she co-starred as a singer delivering ‘50s-era standards in the George Clooney 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck and scored a Grammy for the soundtrack in 2006. What’s remarkable about Reeves is how she is steeped in the jazz tradition of vocalists such as legends Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald but is equally in tune with modern pop. Case in point: her last album, Beautiful Life, a rich jazz mixture of r&b, Latin and pop songs composed by such noteworthies as Bob Marley, Ani DiFranco, Esperanza Spalding, Stevie Nicks and Geri Allen. It too won a Grammy Award for Reeves for the Best Jazz Vocal Album. Another factor that puts Reeves at the top of the heap as far as jazz vocalists go is that she prides herself in writing original compositions that are as strong as the standards she sings.
The cousin and collaborator of the late keyboardist/producer George Duke and an early protégé of Harry Belafonte, Reeves was born in Detroit, grew up in Denver, then moved during stretches to Los Angeles and New York. She now resides back in Colorado, but every year as Valentine’s Day swings around, she makes Jazz at Lincoln Center her home where she will deliver superb interpretations of standards and pop classics as well as sublime renderings of her own music.
When talking with Reeves in 2000 as she released her live album, In the Moment, she said, “Playing live puts you into an amazingly connected place. You’re not thinking about what you had for breakfast or who you might be upset with. The freedom of the stage is that you can be yourself. I’m editing myself all day long in my regular life. When I’m on stage I’m not editing at all.”
The same holds true today with a full bouquet of red roses.
Cover: Dianne Reeves; photo: Jerris Madison.