To catch Dianne Reeves singing on stage is to witness one of the most captivating vocalists on the international music scene today. Through her majestic alto, conversational phrasing and improvisational agility, she delves deep inside each song, unveiling its universal themes in a repartee with her own revelations.
The New York Times hailed Reeves as “the most admired jazz diva since the heyday of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday,” while the Chicago Tribune praised her as “one of the most creative and technically accomplished female vocalists today.”
For her Concord Records release Light up the Night – Live in Marciac, Reeves unleashes some of the lightning that has long ignited her live concerts. It marks her first live recording since 2000’s In the Moment, which earned Reeves her first Grammy for “Best Jazz Vocal Album.”
The now five-time Grammy-winning singer fronted her longtime band—pianist and musical director Peter Martin, bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Terreon Gully, guitarist Romero Lubambo with special guest harmonica virtuoso Grégoire Maret—at the Jazz in Marciac Festival in August 2016 for what was an unforgettable engagement at one of her favorite jazz festivals.
Light up the Night, set for international release on September 8, 2017, documents Reeves on the final night of her triumphant 2016 European tour. With Reeves and her band as fierce as ever, they explore road-tested repertoire with inventive spontaneity, resulting in an especially memorable set.
“It’s important to learn to trust your instincts,” Reeves explained. “I just try to find the magic of each night—which includes calibrating how the band and I are creating with one another that night, and how each audience is different. So our sets are not planned; tunes are called out in response to a feeling. That keeps me on a creative edge…and that’s where I am at my best.”
Reeves begins the disc with her mesmerizing retooling of “Dreams,” the Stevie Nicks-penned hit from Fleetwood Mac’s classic 1977 LP, Rumours
“Dreams” is one of two songs on this disc which appear on Beautiful Life, which won the 2015 Grammy for “Best Jazz Vocal Album.” The other song is the bruising and sassy ballad “Cold,” an original she co-wrote with Martin and Gully. Reeves’ rueful sighs and regal soars bring a bristling conviction to ending an unhealthy relationship. It’s a performance of sheer theater.
Light up the Night also showcases Reeves’ deep appreciation for the American songbook. Included are sublime readings of Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes” and Miles Davis’ classic “All Blues.” On the former, Reeves deftly channels Shorter’s sense of search and splendor as Maret’s beguiling harmonica adds a level of celestial intrigue. On “All Blues”, Veal’s swaggering upright bass intro provides the perfect bedrock for Reeves’ magnificent scatting.
Reeves, a frequent performer at the White House, returned for the 5th International Jazz Day celebration hosted by President Obama and the First Lady. There she sang alongside the iconic guitarist Pat Metheny on his Brazilian-inflected gem, “Minuano.” On Light up the Night, she revisits this song, unraveling Metheny’s infectious melody at first in unison with Lubambo’s empathic guitar before embarking upon flights of fancy. “I’ve always loved this song because it’s so free and open,” Reeves says. “My performance with Pat at the White House was so memorable that it’s now part of my story that I enjoy revisiting whenever I can.”
Every great storyteller is able to draw upon his or her own personal history. Reeves has done this throughout her career by penning stunning originals, and at Jazz in Marciac, she delivered the fan favorite, “Nine,” where she engagingly reminiscences about the joys of childhood as she effortlessly glides across a samba in 7/4.
For an encore, Reeves delivers a divine, heartfelt rendition of Mali Music’s “Beautiful,” an uplifting song that encourages us to project the best of ourselves while appreciating the greatness of others.
Light up the Night can be viewed as a celebration—an artist in her prime doing what she does best. The National Endowment for the Arts just tapped Reeves as one of next year’s NEA Jazz Masters—the greatest honor given to jazz musicians in the United States. While Reeves is appreciative of the many accolades she has received, she is not one to rest on her laurels. “The story continues,” she says. “I look at this record as a moment in my life that sparkles, shines and speaks loudly to audiences while it whispers to me, ‘Good...now keep moving forward.’”
As all listeners will surely agree, on her new live recording, Reeves truly does light up the night.