Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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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 “Dianne Reeves,” he said, “is the sh--” It was, of course meant as a term of endearment. I understood then – 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 couldn’t wait to hear it after watching her bring new life and magic to such songs as The Temptations’ 'Just My Imagination,' Minnie Riperton’s 'Loving You' and the standard 'Windmills Of Your Mind.' As she recalls, “I was really looking forward to that show at The Apollo. “It 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.” Amen.

From excellent show to excellent album: 'When You Know' was produced by Dianne’s 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 (2001’s 'In The Moment' and 2002’s 'The Calling'). It is without doubt Dianne’s most commercially-oriented album in a while: “The 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 Moments’ song “Love On A Two Way Street,” 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!”

Going back, indeed and Dianne shares a great story about 'Just My Imagination': “I 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! I’ll never forget – 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..”
Few singers are brave enough to tackle songs associated with Minnie Riperton. “I 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, "let’s 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!”

Other standouts on 'When You Know' include Dianne’s interpretation of 'Windmills Of Your Mind,' and she notes, “Every jazz musician loves that song, it’s such a musical journey. Billy Childs did a wonderful arrangement and the intensity [of the song] worked for me…” The tune 'Over The Weekend' was previously recorded by Mabel Mercer and Nancy Wilson; and the original song, “Today Will Be A Good Day” was inspired by and is dedicated to Dianne’s 83-year-old mother (“My biggest inspiration. If you don’t call her by 8:30am, you’re not going to catch her. She’s so independent yet so giving – a wonderful example of living in grace.”)

After seeing Dianne and hearing the new album, it’s obvious that she’s truly enjoying life: “I’m feeling really peaceful, joyous and optimistic. I’ve discovered that my happiness is not based on ‘things’ but on how you think and how you live your life. And I’m excited about performing. I’ve been doing songs from this new record in my show and people really love them. It’s been really, really nice…” Somewhat of an understatement, I’d say. For me, “When You Know” is one of Dianne’s best records ever. There’s a soulfulness, a ‘good time’ feeling about the album that is clearly a direct result of how Dianne feels about her music, herself and her life. Simply, it’s jazz-quisite!

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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