Tuesday 26 November 2013

Dianne Reeves - jazz superstar on London's South Bank

The applause started when she walked onto the stage, before a single note was sung. It continued to the very end of the show and beyond the encore. Dianne Reeves' concert at the South Bank must surely be one of the jazz events of the year and a if not the highlight of this year's London Jazz Festival.

Her extremely accomplished band opened up with a lengthy workout of Summertime before Dianne herself joined them, going straight into Dreams, the old Fleetwood Mac number given a new arrangement. One of the tracks on her recently released album Beautiful Life, it was greeted with cheers just a few bars in. She really did have them eating from her hand! We were treated to a number of songs from the new album - several of them covers including jazz standard Stormy Weather sung slightly behind the beat and a reggae influenced version of the Bob Marley classic, Waiting in Vain - both with a Dianne Reeves stamp on them, making them her own as she has so many other classics over the years.

Then there was Tango, her own composition and something she described as an homage to "all of the songs I have purchased but never been able to understand". Completely improvised with references to both Latin and African music, it was so convincing that non-Spanish speakers (like me) could well have been fooled into thinking there were real lyrics to this piece! It reminded me a little of Buena Vista Social Club but mixed with West African music too - something a little different from Dianne!

I don't think there is anything that Ms. Reeves cannot sing, but for me, she is at her best singing classic jazz standards. She treated us to her version of I'm In Love Again, written (with Cy Coleman) and made famous by Peggy Lee, although I love Blossom Dearie's version best. It was just perfect. Big sighs of contentment from me and I am sure from many others in the audience as she worked her way through the lyrics to my favourite verse - "I'm alive again, I can wake up and sing. Nothing bores me now, I enjoy everything" . I wanted her to sing it again straight away. Dianne recorded this on her When You Know album. She also performed the heavily gospel influenced Today Will Be A Good Day from the same recording. 

Ms. Reeves was supported by a quartet of world class musicians. Peter Martin shone on piano, especially on I'm in Love Again, demonstrating a real intimacy between instrument and voice. Romero Lubambo on guitar, Reginald Veal on bass and the wonderful Terreon Gully on drums completed the line-up that made this a very special occasion.

Despite suffering from the extreme heat in the concert hall, Dianne and the band were tempted back to the stage at the audience's insistence and closed with a haunting performance of  I Want You, made famous by Marvin Gaye and written by the great Leon Ware. Once more rapturous applause from an adoring crowd and she was gone, but promising to come back soon. Don't leave it too long Dianne. I keep reminding myself how lucky we are in London - Dianne Reeves and Dee Dee Bridgewater, for me the best two contemporary jazz singers in the world have both been here this year. And we also have great new artists like Zara McFarlane a young British vocalist who performed a short set with her band. She was fabulous according to Dianne Reeves, and I have to agree. She gave a confident performance which included her version of reggae classic Police and Thieves and the self penned Woman in the Orange Grove. Great vocals, a nice manner and real jazz. Watch this woman - and buy her new album which comes out soon! 

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