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Reeves infuses singing with dramatic storytelling

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Sunday, May 5, 2013, 7:42 a.m.

Dianne Reeves obviously realizes that storytelling is a big part of singing.

Closing out the season at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in the North Side May 4, Reeves added intense drama to a great deal of her material.

For instance, she gave “Stormy Weather” a bitterness that seldom appears, even though the lyrics suggest it. She also gave “Misty” the longing Erroll Garner intended, but which tends to disappear in milder versions.

Amid all that, the level of jazz never faded. Her three stagemates – pianist Peter Martin, bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Terreon Gully — all added support that was as intense as her singing. They got a chance to stand out by themselves in their look at “Summertime,” which opened the show before Reeves came out.

Reeves is a singer who is improving constantly. One of her strongest features is an ability to give convincing jazz-blues interpretations to songs from other genres. She opened the 7 p.m. concert with her version of Fleetwood Mac's “Dreams” and made it into a tune fitting her style and skills. She also did the Brazilian classic “Triste,” and shaped it into her soulful style without even losing any of its shades of Bahia.

She also has developed her scat-singing over the years, making it a feature of her act that is taking on Ella Fitzgerald-like quality.

She has a voice that is strong, deep and husky, yet she can roam into the upper registers with no trouble. But the lower end of her sound is really what Dianne Reeves is all about. When she did “One More for the Road,” the deepness gave reality to that story of the late-night bar inhabitant.

That song, by the way, was from her work in the film “Good Night and Good Luck,” and she introduced it with a story of another kind — that of working with George Clooney. The song also featured Veal doing a long bass introduction.

In another moment of non-song storytelling, she told of meeting her idol, Sarah Vaughan, at a musical tribute and getting a lesson about singing from watching her do “Send in the Clowns.” She followed that story with her version of “Misty,” showing she had learned that lesson well.

While most of the songs were done in the quartet setting, “Misty” was a duet with Martin and most of “One More for the Road” was with only Veal.

Really, Reeves could probably do a whole show solo and find a way to make it convincing.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7852.

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