For decades, Dianne Reeves has charted her own course through jazz, R&B, pop, Latin, and Afro-Cuban music and managed to plant her feet credibly in several worlds. Yet, as her greatest kudos indicate — Best Jazz Vocal Performance Grammys for three consecutive albums, and her stunning presence in George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck — jazz is her foremost oeuvre.
Friday’s performance at the Lobero Theatre displayed an artist at the peak of her game: technical virtuoso, alluring songstress, and gracious entertainer. Joined by all-star sidemen Peter Martin (piano), Romero Lubambo (guitar), Reginald Veal (bass) and Terreon Gully (drums), Reeves moved deftly through the contours of a carefully planned program that included standards, originals, and an unusual cover.
Early in the program, Reeves launched into dazzling vocalize, capturing the sense of an African dialect with improvised syllables. Songbook staples, however, such as “Twelfth of Never” and “Stormy Weather,” were the real heart of the program. Savory moments of intimacy included the Peggy Lee hit “I’m In Love Again,” which began as duet with Lubambo; while the Arlen-Mercer classic “One For the Road” opened up with only bass and voice. Ani DiFranco’s “32 Flavors” was spun expertly into a gritty vengeance blues. At the same time, Reeves, known for her celebration of love in all its stages and colors, balanced the program with her tender ballad to childhood, “Nine.” And through it all, we heard the dark velvet of her voice, her rhythmic diction, and her protean harmonic sensibility. It’s been five long years since Reeves’s last visit; we hope to see her again, and sooner than the 12th of never.