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Posted on Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:47 a.m.

Dianne Reeves showcases the power of jazz song at Hill Auditorium

By Will Stewart


Dianne Reeves publicity photo

photo by Andrzej Liguz

What did you think of the concert? Leave a comment and / or vote in the poll at the end of this post: Dianne Reeves invoked the holiday season on Saturday, folding a handful of Christmas classics into her remarkable performance at Hill Auditorium that mixed elegance and song craft amid a master’ class in jazz singing.

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.”


Fran Martin

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

Thank you Dianne for choosing Hill Auditorium for your last concert of the year, as well as introducing me to Raul Midon. This man blew us away! The concert seemed to be over in a heartbeat. I could not believe it was 10:30 PM. It was an incredible evening of song, warmth and celebration. I wish your uncle came onstage so everyone in the audience could have given him a standing ovation. Brilliant concert!


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

Will hit the nail on the head with his review. Her performance was a jazz-lovers dream and a sublime study of the voice as a musical instrument. Rather than pandering to the crowd she simply laid out an effortless display of jazz styling as she interpreted the music in her own special way. Her exquisite vocals, coupled with an ensemble effort that never focused too much attention on any one aspect, left me at times so transfixed that I closed my eyes and just let the sound wash over me. This was my first time seeing her perform live and I was really blown away by her talent. It was an experience I won't soon forget and I hope to see her perform again as soon as possible.