Some music historians argue that after its period of cultural dominance that began with Louis Armstrong in New Orleans in the 1920s and ended with the modal jazz of Miles Davis and John Coltrane and the free jazz of Ornette Coleman in the 60s, jazz for all intents and purposes died. Yes, it was pushed from the cultural mainstream to the margins when the Beatles arrived and became a niche product, but Dianne Reeves proved in this concert that the virtuosic innovation that typifies jazz at its best can still pack a large theatre and ignite audiences.
Supported by her quartet of Peter Martin (piano), Romero Lubambo (guitar), Reginald Veal (bass) and Terreon Gully (drums) and on the last day of a three-week tour, a joyful energised Reeves treated the audience to a versatile set of traditional favourites, original songs and even a couple of vocal improvisations free of lyrics. Waiting in Vain and Cold were intriguing songs focusing on failed relationships and Nine was a wistful gaze back in time at the innocence of being that age. The improvisations were fascinating, and Lubambo’s Brazilian flare and rhythms were to the fore on the South American tune. However, the concert soared when Reeves mined the Great American Songbook – whether it was the tranquil versions of Gershwin’s The Man I Love and Our Love is Here to Stay or the power riffing on One for My Baby just before interval. McCoy Tyner’s You Taught My Heart to Sing was a gorgeous encore and farewell.
About half way through the show, Reeves recounted her days singing in The Tool Shed in the basement of The Warehouse music club in her home town of Denver. Fortunate to be allowed to see Ella Fitzgerald perform there for free, Reeves was doubly fortunate the following night when she had to fill in for the legend who was ill with altitude sickness and discovered Fitzgerald’s heels sitting in her dressing room. The temptation proved too great and Reeves literally stood in Fitzgerald’s shoes as she performed – and she continues to do so.