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Issue 1084

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Feature

DIANNE REEVES: JAZZ-QUISITE

Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves Dianne Reeves

Just in case I needed reminding, my birthday celebration this year provided the opportunity to witness one of the most amazing singers in contemporary music.

Years ago, one of my best friends, Jeff Forman waxed lyrical about her âDianne Reeves,â he said, âis the sh--â It was, of course meant as a term of endearment. I understood then â and I understood once again when I saw her in concert at the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem on February 14. She was beyond beyond, an interpretative vocalist at the top of her game, a woman obviously enjoying the very prime of her life.

Dianne previewed music from her brand new album, 'When You Know' and I couldnât wait to hear it after watching her bring new life and magic to such songs as The Temptationsâ 'Just My Imagination,' Minnie Ripertonâs 'Loving You' and the standard 'Windmills Of Your Mind.' As she recalls, âI was really looking forward to that show at The Apollo. âIt was my first time playing there with my own band and I took it as a sign of something new, an appropriate way to start the year. When artists come there, you know you got to put it down! We connected, myself, the band and the audience: it was an excellent night.â Amen.

From excellent show to excellent album: 'When You Know' was produced by Dianneâs cousin the inimitable George Duke who has worked with her consistently during her long association with Blue Note Records and produced two of her four Grammy Award-winning records (2001âs 'In The Moment' and 2002âs 'The Calling'). It is without doubt Dianneâs most commercially-oriented album in a while: âThe inspiration for the new record came from a tour I did with Russell Malone and Romero Lubambo. It was just me and the two guitarists. One night, we did The Momentsâ song âLove On A Two Way Street,â one of the songs I listened to when I was growing up. They are amazing musicians, they can do everything. Russell comes out of the church so he took me back!â

Going back, indeed and Dianne shares a great story about 'Just My Imagination': âI loved that song. The Temptations where my favourite group. I knew all their names! When I was in eighth grade, they came to Denver and Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams made sure me and my friends got to go to the concert. We were just kids, singing all their songs and doing all their steps! Iâll never forget â they actually sent a car for us and that meant a lot for six kids. We watched them do their show, dressed in green and white suits! When I do that song, I think about that time..â
Few singers are brave enough to tackle songs associated with Minnie Riperton. âI first herd Minnie on the 'Come To My Garden' album which she did with (EW&F arranger/producer) Charles Stepney and I thought, "who is this?" She was put out there as a pop/R&B singer but she was an explorer of all kinds of musical forms. Nobody had a voice like that. Russell (Malone) said, "letâs do this song" and 'Loving You' is a great song...although everyone wants to hear that high note at the end when I sing it!â

Other standouts on 'When You Know' include Dianneâs interpretation of 'Windmills Of Your Mind,' and she notes, âEvery jazz musician loves that song, itâs such a musical journey. Billy Childs did a wonderful arrangement and the intensity [of the song] worked for meâ¦â The tune 'Over The Weekend' was previously recorded by Mabel Mercer and Nancy Wilson; and the original song, âToday Will Be A Good Dayâ was inspired by and is dedicated to Dianneâs 83-year-old mother (âMy biggest inspiration. If you donât call her by 8:30am, youâre not going to catch her. Sheâs so independent yet so giving â a wonderful example of living in grace.â)

After seeing Dianne and hearing the new album, itâs obvious that sheâs truly enjoying life: âIâm feeling really peaceful, joyous and optimistic. Iâve discovered that my happiness is not based on âthingsâ but on how you think and how you live your life. And Iâm excited about performing. Iâve been doing songs from this new record in my show and people really love them. Itâs been really, really niceâ¦â Somewhat of an understatement, Iâd say. For me, âWhen You Knowâ is one of Dianneâs best records ever. Thereâs a soulfulness, a âgood timeâ feeling about the album that is clearly a direct result of how Dianne feels about her music, herself and her life. Simply, itâs jazz-quisite!
Words DAVID NATHAN

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