A true jazz vocalist in the tradition of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, Dianne Reeves unquestionably possesses the power, tone, phrasing, vibrato, and soulfulness of the classic million-dollar voice. Which is why producers called on her to supply nearly all the music for last year's Oscar-nominated period piece Good Night, and Good Luck. Reeves has been in demand overseas as well, recently performing four concerts in Norway and three in Spain. The clamor on both sides of the Atlantic is indicative of her fans' yearning to hear that bold voice in person. In concert, when her trio hits the first downbeat, the audience excitedly anticipates her sweet, evocative, world-class sound, well-suited to the holiday standards in her repertoire this season.
Reeves's albums, though, have often featured attempts at slick, modern R&B record labels' transparent crossover-dream schemes. With the requisite programmed drumbeats, these tracks sound like awkward contrivances from the executive boardroom. The same goes for her missteps into lite jazz and easy listening. Reeves is a fearless singer with a mature voice, and her talents belong in real jazz or cabaret. Anything except finely crafted arrangements of above-average songs will shrivel in her presence.
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Nothing wilts in the Arif Mardin-produced glow of her 2003 album A Little Moonlight. All ten songs spotlight and complement her voice. On "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," Mardin chooses a shuffling drumbeat as the only accompaniment to Reeves's vocal melody. Not tempted by the always-ready horns, piano, and other accouterments, Mardin and Reeves allow the song to come through focused, captivating, and irresistible. As is the case here, when Reeves meets her proper match, confidence and insight combine to create not only moods but also art. Andrés Solar