Gorgeous jazz vocals with guitar fireworks.
Dianne Reeves: Strings Attached
Gorgeous jazz vocals with guitar fireworks.
Dianne Reeves combines breathtaking virtuosity, fiery soulfulness, and astonishing adventurousness in an approach to jazz vocals that many say is the equal of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, or Billie Holiday. Indeed, her unparalleled three consecutive Grammy awards for Best Jazz Vocal shows that the jazz community would agree! Well known for her work with large ensembles such as Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, she brings only her two favorite guitarists to open the Stanford Jazz Festival. Virtuosic, creative, and tuned in to Ms. Reeves as only musical soul mates can be, Russell Malone and Romero Lubambo will help raise the roof of Bing Concert Hall with this special, intimate performance.
Dianne Reeves, vocals
Russell Malone and Romero Lubambo, guitars
Board of Directors of Stanford Jazz Workshop
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For more than three decades Dianne Reeves has thrilled jazz fans with her commanding performances. Her charismatic stage presence, sumptuous chestnut-burnished contralto and compelling sense of swing made her the ideal candidate to pick up the mantle of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Carmen McRae. But Reeves has her own ideas.
Her latest recording, 2014’s Terri Lyne Carrington-produced Beautiful Life (Concord), earned Reeves an unprecedented fifth Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, and it’s a typically expansive collection of songs ranging far beyond the usual American Songbook standards. Drawing on her love of Brazilian music, Afro-Caribbean grooves, R&B, and pop, she applies her infectuous and embracing jazz vision to songs by Bob Marley (“Waiting in Vain”), Marvin Gaye (“I Want You”), Ani DiFranco (“32 Flavors”), and Fleetwood Mac (“Dreams”), while exploring the spectrum between jazz and soul on other tracks. In many ways, the album embodies the diversity of Reeves aesthetic, a sensibility that’s been in evidence from the beginning.
Ever since she was discovered in high school by trumpet legend Clark Terry, Reeves has sought out an expansive array of musical experiences. Though her jazz roots run deep — growing up she spent time with her cousin George Duke and her uncle Charles Burrell, an accomplished jazz bassist who spent four decades with the Colorado Symphony — she made an early impression on the world music scene. Reeves landed her first major gig touring with Brazilian pianist Sergio Mendes in the early ’80s. She spent the middle year of the decade touring with Harry Belafonte, and traces of both experiences can still be heard in her music.
“I think I’ve always been drawn towards other ideas and other ways of viewing music,” says Reeves, who moved back to Denver in the early 1990s after 15 years in Los Angeles. “So it was very natural for me to want to work with Sergio and Belafonte. I think I was going that way anyway, and then these other musical possibilities started to be part of my palette and to color my own music.”
Reeves started attracting national attention in her own right with the two albums she made with keyboardist Billy Childs in the early ’80s for Dr. Herb Wong’s Palo Alto Jazz Records (sessions reissued by Blue Note in 1996). She credits Wong with spotting her emerging gift early on, and giving her an early boost of confidence.
“Herb Wong was an incredible man,” Reeves says. “We met when I was performing with Clark Terry at the Wichita Jazz Festival around 1974, and he told me that if he ever got in a position to help me he was going to. We remained friends and he was as good as his word.”
The Palo Alto sessions raised her profile and she became the first vocalist signed to the revived Blue Note label, releasing an eponymous debut in 1987 featuring a prodigious cast of accompanists, including Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Tony Williams, and Freddie Hubbard. She more than fulfilled her promise with a string of critically-hailed Blue Note albums. While most jazz fans don’t put much stock in the discernment of the NARAS members who vote for the Grammy Awards, there was little controversy when she won the Best Jazz Vocal Album trophy for three consecutive releases, 2000’s In the Moment — Live In Concert with Romero Lubambo, 2001’s Sarah Vaughan tribute The Calling, and 2004’s A Little Moonlight, which also features Lubambo’s guitar and arrangements.
More recently, she earned another Grammy for the soundtrack of George Clooney’s 2005 film Good Night and Good Luck, which showcased her crushed velvet vocals singing songs of the era. Featured on screen performing in a smoky nightclub, she played a key role in establishing the film’s period feel, but in her own music she’s continued to define 21st Century jazz singing.
The project Reeves brings to Bing Auditorium gives a good sense of her wide ranging versatility and curiosity, as Strings Attatched is built upon her deep creative ties to two superlative but very different guitarists. New York-based, Rio de Janeiro-raised Romero Lubambo is a master of rhythmic shadings deeply versed in the verdant musical traditions of his homeland and the jazz continuum. And Russell Malone, who hails from Georgia via New York City, is a supremely swinging and soulful player who has collaborated with masters from Jimmy Smith and Ron Carter to Sonny Rollins and Jimmy Cobb.
“It’s something we’ve done over the past seven years or so, and it’s pretty incredible,” Reeves says. “I love the stripped-down context. It’s much more open and revealing. We do trio and duos. They’ll do one by themselves. I might even do one by myself. The idea of Strings Attached brings me together with a guy from Brazil with one sensibility and the other from the Delta. We cover a lot of ground.”
In much the same we she can transform just about any song into a rapturous jazz vehicle, Reeves possesses a powerful gift for reaching listerners whether she’s singing in a concert hall or a nightclub. Always a storyteller, Reeves looks for songs with strong narratives and uses improvisation to find new levels of meaning in a tune.
“For me performing was a way to work out different life issues,” Reeves says. “I started singing very young and the most important thing I’ve found is that the more I connect with the audience, the better the performance.”
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