DIANNE REEVES is among the pre-eminent jazz vocalists in the world. In her first studio album in five years, Reeves delivers what is destined to become a soul-jazz classic. The album, Beautiful Life, also marks a new relationship with Concord Records —which is not entirely new: Reeves was featured in George Clooney’s six-time Academy Award nominated “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and performed every song on the Grammy-winning soundtrack which was released on Concord Jazz.
Beautiful Life is comprised of 12 songs that have touched Reeves’ spirit in different ways and are rendered in such a way that will appeal to jazz and non-jazz fans alike. Mixing in her love of collaboration, the four-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist has now teamed up with a stunning array of peers including Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper, George Duke, Gregory Porter, Gerald Clayton, Lalah Hathaway, Richard Bona and her producer Terri Lyne Carrington.
The album simmers and smolders throughout, starting off with a mesmerizing makeover of the Marvin Gaye classic, “I Want You.” The choice for this song was influenced by the music Reeves grew up listening to at a time when categories and boundaries were not as finite as they are today. Reeves says, “I always loved Marvin Gaye. Not just because he was a great singer, but because his music was soul steeped in jazz.”
In collaboration with Robert Glasper, Reeves breathes new life into Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, and delivers a beautiful rendition of the rock classic that is haunting and suspenseful. While Ani Difranco’s self-empowering “32 Flavors” had been in Reeves’ live repertoire for some time, this is the first time she has recorded it—and the result is a rousing anthem. “The song is about people doing amazing things that nobody sees,” says Reeves. “It speaks to how we should be more conscious about those around us—those who populate and contribute to our lives.”
Also included is a brilliant version of Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s standard, “Stormy Weather,” a song that harkens back to Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and Billie Holiday—all of whom brought the song mainstream and put their stamp on it—and with an openness and floating sense of time, Reeves has now done the same.
Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” is another jewel in Beautiful Life onto which Reeves has made all her own. “When I brought this amazing song to my friend, Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo, he worked his magic on the arrangement and I couldn’t wait to sing it,” Reeves enthused. The result is thoroughly entrancing.
The original composition, “Tango” is a wordless tour-de-force which celebrates the great non-English singers whose passion Reeves profoundly felt—without understanding the lyrics. “I perform this song throughout the world and wherever I go the spirit of my improvised vocals are completely understood. I have been so inspired and enthralled by so many singers whose lyrics I didn’t comprehend like Celia Cruz, Miriam Makeba, Elis Regina, Angelique Kidjo, Cesaria Evora and the list goes on….”
“Feels So Good (Lifted)” is a particularly touching song as it features accompaniment by Reeves’ cousin George Duke. “George was an amazing artist and man; he was all about finding solutions and keeping things moving forward which is the theme of this song,” explained Reeves. “The two of us frequently spoke of not getting caught up in storms but weathering them and, if possible, dispersing them. I will forever profoundly love and miss George, who availed himself while he was ill to complete this song.”
“Satiated (Been Waiting),” written by Beautiful Life producer Terri Lyne Carrington, is an original standout that screams to be released as a soul-jazz single. The amorous lament features the poignantly soulful vocals of Gregory Porter in duet with Reeves—and who can count Reeves as one of his great fans. Similarly, bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding contributed “Wild Rose” which she wrote for Reeves—who can also count Reeves as a tremendous fan and admirer.
Geri Allen’s “Unconditional Love (For You)” appeared on Carrington’s Grammy-winning Mosaic Project—in which Reeves also participated—and Reeves fell in love with the song. “I loved the title as well as the music and was inspired to write lyrics about providing guidance and abiding love for all children growing up in a difficult world.”
On “Cold,” Dianne teamed up with regular band members, Tereon Gully and Peter Martin, to write a powerful, melancholy ballad about moving beyond anger and disappointment after a failed relationship. And the misty closer “Long Road Ahead,” is dedicated to Reeves’ mother who passed away last year and embraces the notion of sharing with others the things you’ve learned. “She was my mother, wholly-holy, a best friend and shining example of living a beautiful life.”
A multiple Grammy-winner, Reeves has recorded and performed extensively with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra featuring Wynton Marsalis, who said of Reeves, “She has one of the most powerful, purposeful and accurate voices of this or any time.” Reeves has also recorded with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim and was a featured soloist with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic. In addition, she was the first Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the first singer to ever perform at the famed Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Reeves worked with legendary producer Arif Mardin (Norah Jones, Aretha Franklin) on the Grammy winning A Little Moonlight, an intimate collection of standards. When Reeves’ holiday collection Christmas Time is Here was released, Ben Ratliff of The New York Times raved, “Ms. Reeves, a jazz singer of frequently astonishing skill, takes the assignment seriously; this is one of the best jazz Christmas CD’s I’ve heard.”
More recently, Reeves has toured the world in a variety of contexts including a program entitled “Sing the Truth,” a musical celebration of Nina Simone in which Lizz Wright and Angelique Kidjo were also featured.
In what has been a storied, extraordinary career, Beautiful Life features some of the most engaging songs Reeves’ has ever offered. “Even in a world with much sadness,” says Reeves, “at its essence, life is beautiful and I wanted to celebrate that which can be easily overlooked.” Most certainly, among those things not to be overlooked is Beautiful Life.