Have You Met?

When I was given the opportunity to interview my favorite Jazz/Blues singer Dianne Reeves, I jumped at the chance - aside from just plain jumping up and down!  The already legendary Ms. Reeves is at the top of her game and reminds us of one of her role models – the great Sarah Vaughan.  Dianne has a new cd coming out in February called "Beautiful Life" with songs like: "I Want You" and "Waiting in Vain" that just melted my heart when I heard them.

The Denver native and four-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist will perform with her band and the Colorado Symphony at Boettcher Concert Hall on January 25, 2014.  If you want to get warmed up on a cold winter night, you can purchase tickets by going to www.coloradosymphony.org  or calling the CSO box office at 303-623-7876.

Ms. Reeves, referred to often as one of the "pre-eminent jazz vocalists in the world" because of her breathtakingly beautiful voice and improvisational style, uplifts your spirit when you hear her perform.  We were very lucky to have Reeves perform at a Kempe Children’s Foundation fundraising event at the Ellie Calkins Opera House in 2006.  Her vocal power and range reach the stars, and her soulful sound is earthy and tender.  She owned the stage that night!    

Dianne’s uncle, Charles Burrell, a well-known bass player who played with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, is whom she credits as being her most important musical mentor, Dianne says: “My uncle gave me a grounding in the classic jazz vocalists.  He would bring over recordings of these great jazz artists and would always be willing to discuss them whenever I had a question.  It was through him that I got my first introduction to Sarah Vaughan.  Through him I learned that the soul to the music is through communicating with other musicians.”

Actor George Clooney hand-picked her to play the role of a 50's time-period famous jazz singer in his six-time Academy Award nominated movie “Goodnight, and Goodluck” about Edward R. Murrow during the McCarthy era.  Ms. Reeves brought an intense depth to her character, and her star quality came out loud and clear in the film.

Dianne Reeves isn’t just a Denver treasure – she’s a world tour-de-force. Joe Williams of Down Beat Magazine may have said it best:  ”Dianne's the legitimate extension of all of the good things that have gone on before, from Ethel Waters to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae.  She is earth mother, lover, the hurt child: she manages to get inside each one of those things.”

(For more info on Ms. Reeves, go to www.diannereeves.com)

Ms. Reeves, One write-up on you said you graduated from East High School in Denver, but I thought you graduated from George Washington High School where you sang with their band?   Actually it was my sister who graduated from East, I graduated from George Washington H.S. and did sing with their band.  We performed at various music festivals. 

What do you recall the most about your early days of living in Denver?  I loved it because we were free to go anywhere around town and take buses downtown to Woolworth, and we could spend hours there, go to the May D& F for ice skating, walk up and down 16 th Street…  I’ve told people winters are actually better here now.  I remember when the lakes stayed frozen all winter long.   And of course, just having City Park around was always fun. 

Do you have any memories of growing up in Detroit?  I came to Denver  when I was 3 years old, so I really grew up here.

What are the most notable changes you’ve seen in Denver through the years?  It’s gotten so much bigger…. Denver now has such a great bike culture – great trails,  and, of course, still love City Park.

Dianne, you were the star performer at our 2006 Kempe Children’s Foundation fundraising concert at the Ellie Calkins Opera House (your plane was late, and you and your group got there just in time).  Are you still doing charitable benefits?  What are your favorite causes?  Yes, I remember that night well; we got there though!  I’m very involved with the  nonprofit educational organization Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz whose mission is to offer the world's most promising young musicians college-level training by internationally acclaimed jazz masters, and to present public school-based jazz education programs for young people (which fills a tremendous void in arts education) all over the world.  I will do whatever they need me to do to help them raise money!

Can you give us a run-down of what you have planned for the night of January 25 when you perform with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra - and your band?  Yes we perform with the CSO - and my band:  Peter Martin on piano, Romero Lumbambo on guitar,  Reginald Veal on bass, and Terry Gully on drums.  It’s the same group I performed with the night of the Kempe event.  We will do a variety of songs - and some from my newest cd "Beautiful Life" which is my first studio album in 5 years.

Will this be your only Denver performance this year?  I hope not, I’m working on something else that I’m not free to talk about at the moment.

Do you still live in Denver and will it always be your home base?  Yes!  I love it here, and it’s my home.

What do you enjoy doing while you are here?  What’s your favorite Denver restaurant?  I love True Food Restaurant, The Kitchen on Wazee… I'm also a fan of Barolo Grill.  Denver has so many amazing restaurants.  I do love to entertain at home too. Traveling all over the world and being exposed to great food,  I find things from chefs all over, and they teach me how to make great disher for my family and friends.

What qualities do you look for in a friend?   Someone who is down to earth, a humanitarian-type spirit, someone who is open and just easy being themselves - and a “what you see, is what you get” type of person.

Where do you go when you need to find a quiet place?   My home is a pretty good refuge; or I just go up to the mountains.  There are plenty of places to go especially in the springtime and summer when it’s so beautiful…. Really love looking at the mountains and the rapids.   It all keeps growing so much.

Words of Wisdom?  As my mom would say:  “Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready!”

You travel and perform all over the world,  What’s your favorite place to be out of the U.S.?   Gosh – I go to so many places… the people are always so nice.  I was just in Austria and Poland and had a great time.  France is wonderful, and getting to meet new people is my favorite part.

Who has been the greatest influence in your life?  It would have to be my family.  Especially my Uncle, Charles Burrell, bassist for the Denver Symphony for 45 years and before that with the San Francisco Symphony.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?  Racism.  We are still so divided here in the U.S.  It’s a blessing that we are all different, and our differences can actually help one another in the long run.

In your new cd "Beautiful Life" coming out next month, you collaborate with some other amazing artists on many of the songs?  How diverse is the album?  Where is the best place to purchase the new cd?  Yes!  I have worked on this cd since last year around this time, and it was a lot of fun!  Clark Terry, reknown jazz trumpeter (and also a mentor), introduced me to Terri Lyne Carrington who is the producer on the cd.  It’s the second project we have worked on together.  Most of my other cd’s are very traditional, this one is a mix of jazz and soul.  I have some amazing young jazz musicians performing on there with me: Gregory Porter, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding - and my talented cousin George Duke who sadly passed away on August 5, 2013.  I-Tunes or Amazon.com would be a good place to buy the album.

What will you want people - and of course your fans - to always remember you for?  I’m honest, and I give freely on stage with my spirit and my heart, and I always wanted people to walk away after listening to me “lifted.”

And a final question. This is for the ladies, Dianne…  You were hand-picked by George Clooney to play the role of a 50's period jazz singer in his movie “Good Night, and Good Luck.” How good looking really is George Clooney?   Some actors only look good on screen, he even looks better in person…. He looks good all the time!