Jazz Provides A Foundation For Growth

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Friday June 23, 2017

From Edmonton Journal

Dianne Reeves packs more than jazz tunes into her eclectic concert adventures
By: Roger Levesque

Few jazz singers alive have the power, the vocal range, the assured delivery or the wide-ranging taste in repertoire that Dianne Reeves enjoys. In fact, is it still appropriate to call her a jazz singer?

‘Jazz was my foundation and jazz has given me the freedom to sing everything,’ Reeves noted recently on the line from her Denver home. ‘The first I saw Ella Fitzgerald, she was doing a concert of all Beatles tunes. Sarah Vaughn sang everything, too. Jazz musicians have always taken the popular music of the day and given it a jazz sensibility.’

Even so, you might wonder if she was on a deliberate mission to expand the jazz repertoire with her last album, Beautiful Life (Concord, 2014), the disc that won Reeves her fifth Grammy Award. It includes fresh treatments of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You, Stevie Nicks’ Dreams. Bob Marley’s Waiting In Vain, even an Ani Difranco number, 32 Flavors. Stormy Weather is the only nod to traditional jazz, alongside originals from producer Terri Lynn Harrington and her own wordless scats on Tango.

The singer’s upbringing shaped her eclectic tastes.

‘I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s when everything was about experimentation. You could go to a concert and see Ravi Shankar and Miles Davis on the same stage. People were just open to music and I listened to everything. That’s been my greatest inspiration. Jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie were my first contact to world music. That’s how I heard it, so here I am.’

Reeves underlines that all the players on Beautiful Life ‘” including guests like Robert Glaser, Esperanza Spading, Geoffrey Porter and her late cousin, George Duke ‘” are all gifted jazz musicians, and she will remind you that she has recorded songs by Leonard Cohen, Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell and other pop songwriters in the past.

‘It’s about what you like and what speaks to you. Many songs from the past are still relevant, but a lot of jazz musicians are creating their own standards, too. People really want to pigeonhole you in a place, but the real place is like your home. Everybody’s different when it comes to decorating it.’

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