Dianne Reeves in Concert

Diana Reeves

By Bill McDonald

Through their concert series, the Jazz Performance and Education Centre (JPEC) continue in their quest of preserving and continuing the development of jazz music in Canada. While their primary focus has been promoting Canadian jazz musicians, it is important that their programs occasionally incorporate international artists. It’s hard to imagine a better representative than the incomparable jazz vocalist, Dianne Reeves.

Reeves was born in Detroit to a highly musical family and, at an early age, her family moved to Denver, Colorado. Her talents were fostered both at home and school, with influences that included jazz and classical music. In 1976, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career as a vocalist. Here she also began incorporating Latin American styles. Her LA experiences included a tour with the legendary Sergio Mendes. Her musical horizons expanded further into world music with her 1983 to 1986 tour with Harry Belafonte.

Reeves has since become a premier headliner in her own right. She has an impressive discography, including four Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Performance – three of which came in consecutive years.

Last Saturday, Reeves performed at the Bluma Appel Theatre. Her set reflected her diverse musical influences, with a sprinkling of selections from the Christmas Season. (Christmas Time Is Here CD) As always, she surrounds herself with great musicians which on this night featured music director Peter Martin on piano, Romero Lubambo on acoustic guitar, Reginald Veal on bass, and Terreon Gully on drums.

Reeves opened her set with a lively version of ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, set against African percussive rhythms. She then took a few moments to talk about the influences of “stories” in her life – primarily those told at family get-togethers. Reeves let the audience know that she would be sharing many stories with them that evening. For the next two hours, she did just that. Some of these stories were spoken, some were musically vocalized, and all were reflected within her songs.

In one amusing example, Reeves related her work with George Clooney on the soundtrack of his movie ‘Good Night and Good Luck’. Her reminiscing (interspersed with audible sighs from female audience members) was followed by a soulful rendition of the closing number of the movie,’ One For My Baby’.

Throughout the performance, Reeves continually demonstrated the width and depth of her vocal talents. Her rendition of ‘Let It Snow’ featured an extended scat improvisation (with range and creativity that would make Ella smile) that included trading lines with Martin on piano. The gospel inspired closing number of the first set drew the audience into what could only be described as a “church moment”.

There was no let down in the second set, highlighted by a samba version of ‘Our Love Is Here To Stay’, accompanied solely by the Brazilian guitar mastery of Lubambo. The evening ended with an encore performance of the Mel Tormé classic, ‘The Christmas Song’.

Next in the JPEC concert series will be the Ingrid Jensen Quintet, with acclaimed Canadian musicians and sisters Ingrid (trumpet) and Christine (alto sax) Jensen on Tuesday, February 23rd at the Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front Street West.

For more information on this concert and JPEC, visit their website at JazzCentre.ca.