Wednesday June 06, 2012
Dianne Reeves Wields Storytelling Power at Howard Theatre
By: John Murph
“Tell your stories.” That’s how Dianne Reeves signs off her shows lately. At the Howard Theatre, as part of the grand kickoff of the 2012 D.C. Jazz Festival (June 1–10), she illustrated the magnetic power of storytelling. Reeves linked a varied program of jazz standards, pop tunes and originals with touching anecdotes, mostly concerning family. It’s a strong characteristic to her artistry that comes as no surprise given that her 1987 breakthrough composition, “Better Days,” was a heartfelt tribute to her late grandmother. Twenty-five years later, the song continues to have a strong hold on listeners. When Reeves concluded her hour-and-a-half show with “Better Days,” she inspired many in the audience to shimmy and sing along.
Earlier in the set, she mentioned the recent passing of her mother and how she imparted tremendous motherly wit. She said that her mother didn’t entertain foolishness, sadness or depression. “She might have received them, but she didn’t entertain them,” Reeves noted. Then, as if she were taking cues from her mother, Reeves launched into the ebullient “Today Will Be A Good Day.” Powered by Chris Thomas’ fatback bass line and Terreon Gully’s good-foot drums, Reeves superbly channeled her gospel roots, imbuing the lyrics with defiant optimism and glorious musicianship.
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