VOCAL CHAMELEON: In her time, Dianne Reeves has drawn on her remarkably flexible, chameleonic talents to pay tribute to a range of significant singers who have passed on, from Sarah Vaughan (a tribute heard at the Arlington Theatre a decade ago) to recent respect-paying tributes to Nina Simone and Abbey Lincoln, both recently passed. Reeves has the wisdom, the chops, and the range to “go there,” in different directions, but with heart and musical mind intact.
Meanwhile, the real Reeves keeps standing up and delivering on her own unique, defiantly multidirectional terms, appealing to fans of the deep jazz stuff and more R&B and world-music-ish leanings and generally keeping customers satisfied. No doubt, more of that satisfaction will come to pass when Reeves pays a return visit to the Lobero Theatre on Friday, October 19, in the Jazz at the Lobero series. She was last in this jazz-kindly room in 2007, soon after she had made a mainstream jazz splash with her vintage-waxing work on the soundtrack of Good Night, and Good Luck and before her last studio album, When You Know.
On that album, Reeves spins deftly around fresh arrangements of “Just My Imagination” and “Windmills of My Mind,” a tasty pop reread of “Midnight Sun,” a straight-ahead-ish “Social Call,” and the African-flavored intrigue of the title cut. In other words, it’s a little trip through the curious yet confident musical brain of Reeves. Expect that kind of action at the Lobero, along with the sound of one of the finer living jazz singers on the global block.
HAIKU REVIEW — MONTEREY CALLING: Each third weekend of September, the jazz world turns its attention to our extended backyard, when the Monterey Jazz Festival takes over the Monterey County Fairgrounds for a dense weekend. A few weeks back, the 55th (count ‘em) annual festival took place, rising to a higher artistic occasion than last year’s affair and mixing up conventional wisdoms and genres with more adventuresome stuff.
This year, the festival had strong links to Santa Barbara’s slender yet comely jazz season. Saturday night’s main-stage headliner, the Pat Metheny Unity Band—costarring friendly tenor sax giant Chris Potter—would play the Lobero several nights later in what was certainly one of the finer and more inspiring concerts in Santa Barbara this year. On Sunday night in the festival arena, the all-star confab dubbed the Monterey All-Stars — again with the masterful Potter, singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, and everyone’s favorite wunderkind trumpeter, Ambrose Akinmusire — offered a preview taster of a band headed to the Lobero early next year. Akinmusire’s own bright, feisty, and sensitive young band was a high point, and more reason to put faith in the next generation off jazz-makers.
This festival also paid respects to the great drummer Jack DeJohnette, who celebrated the big 7-0 and sounded hale and hearty in his own electro-acoustic band, in a trio with Metheny and Christian McBride and, best of all, in a diverse “conversational” duet with guitarist Bill Frisell. That show reminded some of us Monterey regulars of a memorable duet show here several years ago between Frisell and his ally, the late, great drummer Paul Motian.
For my money, the site-specific highlight was Frisell’s “Big Sur Quintet,” with his pals Eyvind Kang on viola, violinist Jenny Scheinman, cellist Hank Roberts, and painterly drummer Rudy Royston, suddenly the man to call when subtlety and modernist swing are required. To its credit, the festival, under the enlightened leadership of Tim Jackson, has commissioned a new work each year. Some of the finer goods have come courtesy of Maria Schneider, Dave Holland, Jason Moran’s inventive “Feedback” — riffing off of a sample of Jimi Hendrix’ feedback from this very stage at Monterey Pop — and now Frisell’s beautiful new 50-minute suite, a happy admixture of his neo-chamber music, twisted Americana, and personalized world beat-ing conjured artfully as only he can.
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