by Eastsider
posted 20/06/2017


Dianne Reeves


Sometimes you’re witness to a concert that reinforces your faith in the transformative power of music. That was the case tonight. If it’s a singer, that reinforcement can be industrial in strength. Like that time Betty Carter came to Sydney’s Basement many moons ago and welded me to my seat with the sheer weight of her voice. Mid performance a string on the piano broke (until that night I didn’t even know that was possible) throwing the instrument out of tune. Walk off stage?
Not Betty. She just scatted to us for what felt like all-too-short a time, but in reality was probably ages, since it takes quite a while to replace a piano string and retune.

Detroit-born Dianne Reeves get’s compared to Ms Carter, but also too all the jazz vocal greats, from Ella, Sarah and Billie, to Nina, who was extraordinary as a pianist and a singer. Reeves can play piano too, although she didn’t on this occasion. I have to admit I was a late discovering Reeves, for which I chastise myself, given she’s now 60 and has been pretty much releasing almost an album a year since 1982. Like others I gather, it was her performance in “Good Night, Good Luck” (the beautifully filmed 2006 black and white drama also starring George Clooney, Robert Downey, Jr. and Patricia Clarkson) that put her on my radar. Had Reeves been active at the same golden-era time as some of the aforementioned greats, she would probably also be a household name. That may explain my slow arrival at her canon, but then again, Carmen McRae often falls off lists featuring the likes of Ella, Billie et all – and she rates as my all time favourite female jazz vocalist. McRae’s albums are amongst my most collected – and Reeves also deserves to be compared to her going by the remarkable voice and technique on ample display tonight.

Reeves is her own unique performer though and on this night she not only sounded resplendent, but looked it too (special mention here for that amazing necklace!). There’s a little bit of a hippie in this robed singer (tonight she returned barefoot for a singalong peace ‘n’ positivity encore that ended with a standing ovation) and a lot of the virtuoso (she plays her vocal chords like an instrumental virtuoso, pitch-perfect and near gymnastic). Great moments were many, backed as she was by a terrific quartet: bassist Reginald Veal, pianist Peter Martin, drummer Terreon and long time musical companion, Brasilian guitarist Romero Lubambo. For starters, literally, there was a version of “The Twelfth of Never”. Later a complete reinvention of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, an Ella tribute and also her own “Tango” from latest album “Beautiful Life” showing off that effortless way Reeves scats. In fact, just like the Betty Carter gig mentioned earlier, Reeves’ scatting didn’t just delight in song, but also in between songs, where banter and introductory stories were turned into impromptu musical works of their own.

If you’re now rushing off to sample some Dianne Reeves albums – and there are plenty to choose from – a warning: you may not instantly be convinced or converted, so give them time, but either way, I’d thoroughly recommend you see her live next time she plays nearby.

Paris Pompor

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