Dianne Reeves: A Virtuso Jazz Vocalist


dianne reeves 10


Dianne Reeves: A Virtuso Jazz Vocalist


by Hermene Hartman

Dianne Reeves belongs in that pantheon of great female vocalists that includes Nancy Wilson, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Carmen McRae and Nina Simone – even Lady Ella and Sassy Sarah Vaughan would not mind her being a member of their august entourage.
Reeves will appear in concert on Sunday, June 21, along with jazz virtuoso Gregory Porter, at the N’DIGO Foundation Scholarship Gala at the Chicago Symphony Center.

A once-in-a-generation talent like her peers mentioned above, Reeves is the pre-eminent jazz vocalist in the world today, which is certainly borne out by the hardware she has accumulated as a five-time Grammy Award winner.

As a result of her breathtaking virtuosity, improvisational prowess, and unique jazz and R&B stylings, Reeves has received the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for three consecutive albums – that is a Grammy first for any singer in any vocal category.

Dianne Reeves is a five time grammy award winner. .


Ms. Reeves is the pre-eminent jazz vocalist in the world today. Click to listen.


Those albums were: 2001’s In The Moment – Live in Concert; 2002’s The Calling: celebrating Sarah Vaughan; and 2004’s A Little Moonlight.
Her fourth Grammy came in 2006 for the soundtrack of George Clooney’s six-time Academy Award nominated movie Good Night, and Good Luck. Reeves was featured throughout the movie and performed every song on the soundtrack.
Just this year, she received her fifth Best Jazz Vocal Grammy for her album, Beautiful Life, which showcases Reeves’ sublime gifts in what is a melding of R&B, Latin and pop elements within the framework of 21st Century jazz.
Produced by ultra-talented Terri Lyne Carrington, Beautiful Life was Reeves first album in five years and features an all-star cast that includes bassists Esperanza Spalding and Richard Bona, vocalists Gregory Porter and Lalah Hathaway, pianists Robert Glasper and Gerald Clayton, and Reeves’ cousin and frequent longtime collaborator, the late George Duke.
“At its essence, life is beautiful and I wanted to celebrate that which is too often overlooked,” Reeves says of the album, but it actually holds a deeper significance for the singer after she experienced two major deaths.
Five years ago, she returned home to help care for her ailing mother, who died in 2012 after battling breast cancer. Then, in August of 2013, Reeves lost George Duke to chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Reeves says, “The title of the record is a tribute to really close people in my life who made transitions. I got to share this incredible time with them and learn and be a better person because of them.”


Reeves comes from a musical family. . .

diane reeves beauttiful life

Listen to Beautiful Life.

Both were instrumental in her musical development. Reeves was born in Detroit but raised in Denver, Colorado to a musical family. Her father was a singer and her mother played trumpet, while her uncle was a bass player in the Denver Symphony Orchestra.
“I came from a home that was filled with music. My dad was a lover of jazz, and there were a lot of musicians in my family. Also, my sister and cousins were playing the music of the day,” says Reeves, who was born October 23, 1956.
Of her early influences, she says, “I loved Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, Nina Simone. When I first heard Nina Simone, her naked truth shocked me. Whenever she sang it felt like lightning bolts in my soul.”
She also loved the artists that came out on Motown. “When I was coming up, the thing that made you wonderful was your uniqueness. You could have all of these different artists on Motown and none of them sounded alike,” she says.
“That's the thing I really love about the time I grew up in – celebrating that one thing that you have that is different in all the world and that is your unique way of approaching something. I tell young people to find and refine that – just keep coming with who you are and your unique self.”


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She holds a doctorate from Julliard School. . .


Reeves says she knew she wanted to sing as early as junior high school. “I knew I had a voice, and when we started doing a lot of singing in school, kind of like a glee club, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed how it made me feel. It seemed like something that was mine and I loved how it made people respond,” she says. “My uncle was a really fine jazz bassist, and I would do performances with him and he would give me records. I loved jazz music and that's where I decided I wanted to go.”
In high school, Reeves met trumpeter Clark Terry, who became her mentor. As a young woman, she had a penchant for Latin music and played with Eduardo del Barrio's group Caldera, and Sergio Mendes. She later toured with Harry Belafonte and her solo career took off in 1987 when she signed with Blue Note Records.
In recent years, Reeves has toured the world in a variety of contexts. She has performed at the White House for President Obama on multiple occasions and last month she was recognized by the Juilliard School with an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts.
After she finishes her N’DIGO Gala engagement, Reeves will spend the Fourth of July week performing in Europe, including at the esteemed Montreaux Jazz Festival. Reeves, who has recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has also recorded and extensively performed with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Wynton Marsalis, who says of the astonishing singer, “she has one of the most powerful, purposeful and accurate voices of this or any other time.”


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