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February 19, 2014

Dianne Reeves' 'Beautiful Life' Offers Musical Melting Pot

by Diaa Bekheet

 Dianne Reeves is extending her jazz style beyond the boundaries of pop, soul, and contemporary R&B with her new album, Beautiful Life, which skillfully blends modern jazz and soul with bossa nova and reggae music.

Dianne Reeves accepts her award for best jazz vocal album for "A Little Moonlight" during the 46th Annual Grammy Awards, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2004, in Los Angeles.
​​The four-time Grammy winner officially released  Beautiful Life on February 14. It showcases 12 songs, which are engaging and emotionally volcanic. A good example is her interpretation of Bob Marley’s classic reggae anthem "Waiting In Vain.”

“It’s one of his great songs. They all are," Reeves explained in an interview with VOA. "But this one really, really speaks and my very dear friend (nylon-string guitarist) Romero Lubambo from Brazil arranged this particular song for me."

“He has his magic thing of reinterpreting things," she added. "So, I loved it and that’s what we have featuring (singer) Lalah Hathaway.”

Reeves reaches new heights on her scat version of “Tango,” and on the new arrangement Marvin Gaye's iconic “I Want You.”

Beautiful Life, Reeves’ 20th and finest album (in my humble opinion), is a collaborative effort. It features skilled musicians such as Grammy winner Terri Lyne, Esperanza Spalding, Nadia Washington, (her late cousin) George Duke, and Harold Arlen.

 

A Detroit, Michigan native, Reeves started her music career at home with her family. Her father was a singer and her mother, Vada Swanson, was a trumpeter.  “It made a big difference,” said Reeves, about the influence they had on her career choice. By the time she was ready to leave home and go out in the world trying to make her dreams come true, she says she stayed mindful of her mother’s advice which was: “Just keep beating, moving forward, stay ready so you don’t have to get ready and learn as much as you can.”

In 2005, Reeves dazzled moviegoers by singing on the soundtrack of George Clooney's “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Clooney had decided that jazz was  the best compliment for the black-and-white cinematography depicting New York City in the 1950s.

"It was the music of a certain era that I love around the ‘50s and with singers sang in a totally different way, and I loved that George Clooney selected all of the music for this film that went so beautifully with the story," she said. "So it was kind of like the Greek chorus of the movie, and the jazz was performed live in the film. That was incredible." 

Critics consider Beautiful Life, produced by Terri Lyne, to be a strong comeback for Reeves after a five-year break.  Reeves said she was forced to stay close to home due to her mother’s failing health. “I just wanted to be able to be with her. And so, I worked when I was, you know, home a lot more," she explained.

Asked about the meaning behind the name of her new album she replied “Even in a world with much sadness, at its essence, life is beautiful."


Listen to more music and interviews here on Jazz Beat