Saturday, October 18, 2014


Dianne Reeves

The jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves’ concerts are hit or miss. When she’s on point, her concerts are something to behold. When she has an off night, you feel letdown as if she didn’t give her all. She has one of the best voices in jazz, and her scatting rivals any of the great jazz vocalists of any era. Friday night at Orchestra Hall in Detroit, Reeves played the first concert of the 2014-2015 Paradise Jazz Series.

Reeves scatted a hell of a lot, which is often heavenly when she does so in moderation. She’s a natural born storyteller. The thing is the stories haven’t changed over the years. You wish she’d update them, or better yet spend more time singing.

During the second set Friday, for example, Reeves was chatty, particularly when gushing about actor George Clooney who hired her for the movie “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and talking about her aunt fooling a group of vegetarians at a family cookout by lacing their vegetables with bacon grease.

The first set smoked thanks to Reeves’ band – pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist James Genus, guitarist Romero Lubambo, and drummer Terreon Gully – The band is tighter than pricey dress shoes, and they supported her like four big brothers.

Clayton is the new member. It was his second show with the band. He’s a young buck and he’s made quite a name for himself. As a session leader, he’s released three excellent albums, and he showed his knack for backing a world-class jazz vocalists throughout the concert.

The band warmed the stage for Reeves, opening with the standard “Summertime”. Then she floated on stage, scatted her way through the second song, which didn’t have words. At the end of it, she tacked on an amusing story about attending a Stella Cruz concert in L.A. back in the day. Reeves likes to include amusing stories in the middle or at the end of songs.

Reeves is a wiz at improvising. She does it as skillfully as a horn player. That was on full display when trumpeter Terence Blanchard joined the band for a seductive take of “Stormy Weather”.  

Note for note, she matched Blanchard. At one point, it seemed as if they were making love musically on stage. The concert could’ve ended after that number with the audience satisfied she’d given them a good show.

But the concert carried on. And Reeves sang less and talked more. The audience didn’t mind though. However, when you pay to hear a top jazz vocalist, you want the vocalist to at least sing for 90% of the concert.  

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