Wednesday February 02, 2011
Dianne Reeves: A Jazz Voice With Pop Sensibilities
By Felix Contreras
When jazz fans of the future look back, I believe Dianne Reeves will stand out as one of the best voices of our generation. Hearing her live leaves little doubt: Not only does she nail all the things that define great jazz singers, but she also expands the idea of what a jazz vocalist is.
To my ears, Reeves is also a singer who celebrates her affinity for pop music with a jazz musician’s approach. On her self-titled 1987 album, she includes an ode to her grandmother titled “Better Days.” The construction of this tune has always reminded me of Earth, Wind and Fire’s sophisticated approach to pop music: intricate rhythm arrangements, lyrics that deftly slip into the song’s groove and choruses that leave listeners humming for days.
The entry point to understanding and appreciating the duality of a jazz approach to pop lies within the song itself. Jazz vocalists often deconstruct the original melody by exploring the musical DNA of the song: elongating certain notes, altering the melody based on alternate chords, changing the syntax of the lyrics.
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