Dianne Reeves showcases the power of jazz song at Hill Auditorium
photo by Andrzej Liguz
Everything about Reeves’ performance Saturday was musical, right down to most of her stage patter and band introductions.
No surprise. Music fairly bubbles out of the singer, whose performance on Saturday transcended jazz, with forays into reggae and pop, as well as reworkings of the Christmas classics “Little Drummer Boy” and “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” performed as a duet with the delightful opening act, Raul Midon.
“I‘m so happy to be here with you tonight,” she sang early in her set. “We’ve got a lot of music to share with you.”
And she and her able quartet delivered on that promise, seemingly having a blast playing off one another and luxuriating in the remarkable instrument that is Reeves’ voice.
Reeves’ virtuosity is a subtle wonder. It’s not that she isn’t capable of flashy runs up and down the scales, something she employed a few times during her 90-minute set. But the true wonder of her gift is her nuanced, tempered approach to songs, transforming even the most familiar standards into her own works of art.
She did it with “Misty,” dedicating it to her own hero, Sarah Vaughan, and, accompanied only her pianist, Peter Martin, she managed to find new life in a timeworn tune. Vaughan, for all her brilliance, would have been hard-pressed to top Reeves’ command of one of the elder singer’s signature tunes.
But even more notably, Reeves did it with “Stormy Weather,” finding the meanings between the words and, rather than singing to the rafters, turning it inward into a powerful, torchy masterpiece of understatement, while wringing every ounce of pathos from the tune.
She and the band stripped Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain” to its essence, with Reeves reinventing the familiar chorus’ melody each time it came around, while guitarist Romero Lubambo vamped behind the beat on a fingerpicked classical guitar.
In Martin and Lubambo, Reeves has a remarkable frontline tandem. Martin’s accompaniment was elegant and tasteful, while Lubambo, never flashy, played with a solid brilliance throughout the set.
Bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Terreon Gully constituted a simpatico rhythm section, but also played well in the scheme of the larger unit, alternately prodding one another and offering space for the other to shine.
Credit Reeves as a generous bandleader, who clearly appreciates the accompaniment of a band that understands and enhances her remarkable talent.
“You know, we have a lot of fun up here,” she said near the close of the set. “It’s a big old sandbox and everyone comes to play.”