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JAZZ REVIEW : 'Better Days' Ahead for Reeves

February 12, 1988|A. JAMES LISKA

If Dianne Reeves chose to limit her vocal performances to include only the Rodgers and Hart classic, "My Funny Valentine," she would no doubt still manage to satisfy her audiences.

Fortunately, though, the extraordinary singer does lend her incredible vocal range and her sensitively dynamic interpretations to other songs, making each as special as "Valentine."

At Concerts by the Sea in Redondo Beach on Tuesday night, Reeves, accompanied by an at-times too loud quartet of nonetheless capable musicians, entertained a capacity house with a seven-tune set that included some of her own substantial work.

A strikingly attractive woman, her braided hair piled in a fez-like shape atop her head, Reeves was a powerhouse of emotion and musicality. A woman who has never shied from taking chances--some of which have failed--she launched into a forgettable opening R&B tune before moving into an attractively jagged rendition of "How High the Moon." Over her deftly swinging quartet, Reeves took the tune along a modal route that both challenged and pleased the ear.

Reeves stayed within the dynamic confines of swing and Latin beats (bassist Tony Dumas adding a great rhythmic urgency to each) for dynamite readings of "Yesterdays" and "Passageway" before delivering a remarkable and haunting "Be My Husband," a chain-gang chant she characterized as "ancient blues."

Her closing "Better Days," a beautiful and powerful ballad about her grandmother, left the audience emotionally spent as she built the tune into an excited frenzy.

Without a doubt, Reeves is one of the most important young singers currently mining the jazz vein.

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