Dianne Reeves interview with Edge On The Net

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Wednesday January 29, 2020

Jazz Great Dianne Reeves Talks (and Sings) Straight from the Heart

“For being a 5-time Grammy Award winner, Dianne Reeves is easy-going, relaxed, and completely without pretense in an interview. You never get the sense that she is giving you a rehearsed declaration, but instead, she is giving you her authentic self. In fact, that is what most music journalists will say about her singing. This may be why Reeves gets uncomfortable, detectable even over the phone when one asks her about her musical influences. Her response to this question usually is: “I don’t have one.” She equates being influenced by another artist with sounding like them, thus giving up one’s own identity and authenticity to the other artist.

This may have been a lesson she learned very early on, as a young high school teen just entering the music scene. Her uncle, the great jazz and classical bassist Charles Burrell saw that her rendition of “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” was modeled note for note on Sarah Vaughn’s arrangement from an album “Sarah Vaughn With Michel Legrand,” a recording the young Reeves had practically worn thin. He pointed out to Reeves that if Vaughn were to sing that song three times, she would sing it three different ways, and that the recording only caught one of them. He encouraged her to lay her own version onto the chords. From that moment Reeves never stepped into another musician’s shoes, only her own.

That’s not to say that she hasn’t learned from other singers and instrumentalists. She credits Vaughn for teaching her how to use her wide vocal range, something she and Vaughn have in common. She freely admits that she listened extensively to Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday growing up. But she also notes that she listened to many of the Motown artists, like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and Tammi Terrell. There was also Earth, Wind, and Fire. But her most valuable epiphany came from listening to and watching Betty Carter perform. She saw that Carter didn’t front her instrumental band, she was one of them, another instrument, fully integrated, as a co-creator. She told Sound Exchange in a 2017 interview, “At that point, I realized I would never have a backup band. It would be an ensemble that we create together.”“

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