Dianne Reeves has been one of the top singers in jazz ever since the late '80s. A logical successor to Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae (although even she can't reach the impossible heights of Ella and Sarah Vaughan), Reeves is a superior interpreter of lyrics and a skilled scat singer.
When she wants to sing jazz, Dianne Reeves has always had the ability to reach the top of her field, but she has long seemed unable to make up her mind between jazz, R&B, world music, and pop. This Blue Note disc fortunately finds her mostly sticking to jazz and in consistently superb form. Reeves' treatments of such numbers as "Afro Blue" (which is particularly memorable), "Love for Sale," "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise," "How High the Moon," and McCoy Tyner's "You Taught My Heart to Sing" all border on the classic.
Vocalist Dianne Reeves is coming off back to back Grammys for two highly orchestrated efforts: the Sarah Vaughan tribute Calling , and her live set In the Moment. For A Little Moonlight , she has stripped down this approach and used an intimate format to present captivating versions of jazz standards. A Little Moonlight is Reeves plain and candid, highlighting her wide ranging voice in all its glory. Energizing as she scats and swings on the up tempo numbers, she then seductively melts you by plunging down low for deeply rich contraltic renderings.
An amazing moment for singer Dianne Reeves – the first in a long line of excellent records for the Blue Note label – and a wonderfully tight blend of jazz and soul, put together at a level that instantly pushed Reeves into the territory of previous giants like Phyllis Hyman and Marlena Shaw. Like both of those singers, Dianne's got roots in jazz, but also pushes towards more of an R&B vibe at times – but never in a way that's commercially aimed at the charts, especially in comparison to some of her contemporaries. There's a really rich feel to the whole album – thanks to help from George Duke, who produced and played keyboards – alongside other musicians like Herbie Hancock on keyboards, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, and Ndugu Chancler on drums.
Dianne Reeves has deservedly been hoisted on high as one of the top five jazz voices in the decade of the 2000s. Her four Grammy Awards and her music from the movie soundtrack Good Night, and Good Luck solidified Reeves' upper-echelon placement. When You Know showcases material going off into the shallow end of the pool, away from legitimate jazz, and covering languid and lush pop songs. George Duke, who has over-produced many a recording in his time, is not quite in the realm of Tommy LiPuma or Creed Taylor, but he has done more than his share to give Reeves an orchestrated backdrop to sing songs she likes.
There should be no overlooking Beautiful Life, a journey of 12 songs which includes singularly memorable covers of Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and Ani DiFranco’s self-empowering “32 Flavors.” Included in the rest of the tracks, which cover the spectrum from jazz to soul, are two new songs “Cold” and “Satiated” which are emotionally volcanic. Produced by Terri Lyne Carrington, Beautiful Life features an all-star cast that includes bassists Esperanza Spalding and Richard Bona, vocalists Gregory Porter and Lalah Hathaway, pianists Robert Glasper and Gerald Clayton and Reeves’ cousin and frequent longtime collaborator George Duke.
The Music for Lovers series from EMI and Blue Note spotlights the balladic nature and romantic side of the artists who have recorded for its associated labels. Dianne Reeves performs in a variety of settings here, singing standards from the vocal jazz world as well as R&B and art rock. Beginning with an excellent 1982 reading of "My Funny Valentine" with Billy Childs, the volume picks up two Reeves performances from the late '80s.