[Dixielandjazz] Diana Reeves Review - May not be YKOM

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Sat, 10 Aug 2002 09:03:45 -0400

I went to see Miss Reeves this week, at the Village Vanguard.
(remembering that I performed there some 48 years ago) She was
wonderful. Maybe not YKOM, but certainly a great jazz singer, backed up
by a great trio delivering a great performance. If this group records,
buy it. Better yet, go see them if they are in your neighborhood.

Steve Barbone

August 10, 2002 - New York Times

A Big Voice, With Nothing Held Back


Jazz singers these days seem more likely to find their useful
information in the restraint and mystery of bossa nova than in the
unapologetic splendor of, say, Sarah Vaughan. Maybe it's because they
feel that reticent music implies modernity more quickly. If so, Dianne
Reeves is their opposite: she's only lightly concerned with reticence.
She has an enormous voice and an enormous talent, and she offers it up
to stun her audience.

On Tuesday night at the Village Vanguard, where she plays through
tomorrow night with a backing trio, she was noticeably loud for the room
and sometimes seemed as if she were performing in a thousand-seat hall.
But she never exaggerated her body gestures; she was just turning on her
klieg-light voice.

It's Ms. Reeves's first-ever week at the Vanguard, which remains an old
school honor for any jazz musician, and the extra measure of pride was
clear in the performance. Her new band, made up of the pianist Peter
Martin, the bassist Reuben Rogers and the drummer Greg Hutchinson 
they've been playing together for about six months and will soon record
 is, compared with her older, slicker ensembles, New York with a
vengeance. No exotic percussion player, no world-music affectation, just
hard-nosed swing. Still, she isn't giving herself license to roam or
even interact with improvising musicians Betty Carter-style: this was
meticulous, mapped-out music.

She doesn't let you forget how much craft goes into her singing or the
overall performance. "You Go to My Head" was a dramatically quiet set
piece, opening with only voice and piano, and when she sang the word
"you" for the last time, it was a lovely 10-note string, leading into a
bowed-bass-ending flourish. No area of "Lullaby of Birdland" was tossed
off: for her scat solo, the ensemble dropped out save for Mr. Rogers,
and then with every subsequent four bars the instruments jumped in and
grew more forceful together.

In a blues, she accented every microtonal note in a fast run, like a
segmented melisma. (It was above all a demonstration of throat muscles,
but each note was true; her intonation is fabulous.) At one point
between songs she recalled being in a high school choir when she
discovered Sarah Vaughan and that you could, if you wanted to, smuggle
some Vaughan-like blues runs into Bach's "Magnificat." She sang it; it
was impressive, of course.

And it was a lead-in to her earnest, self-actualizing side, in original
songs like "Endangered Species" and "Nine," claiming the power of
womanhood and one's inner child. "I am a gift to the world!" she sang
loudly at the peak of "Endangered Species." And though one can admire
her for saying so, it's clear even from a scat solo how she feels about
herself. What's best about Ms. Reeves is what's best about so many
skilled high-octane performers: that she respects the audience enough to
give them well-wrought music, that she transforms self-regard into