Dianne Reeves – I Remember – Blue Note Records (1991)/Pure Pleasure Records (2012) 180-gram audiophile stereo vinyl PPAN BST90264, 44:53 ***½:
(Dianne Reeves – vocals; Billy Childs – piano; Chris Severin – bass; Billy Kilson – drums; Justo Almario – saxophone; Charles Mims – piano; Bobby Hutcherson – vibes; Greg Osby – alto saxophone; Donald Brown – piano; Charnett Moffett – bass; Marvin Smitty Smith – drums; Ron Powell – percussion; Bill Summers – percussion; Luis Conte – percussion; Kevin Eubanks – acoustic guitar; Mulgrew Miller – piano; Terri Lyne Carrington – drums)
As a new generation of jazz vocalists emerges, they will have to deal with the ghosts of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McCrae, Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan. A leader of this vanguard is Grammy-winning singer Dianne Reeves. She was introduced to jazz singing at her Colorado high school. Her uncle suggested that she listen to Sarah Vaughan, and that sealed the deal. In 1973, her high school jazz band traveled to Chicago. There, she performed in an ensemble with trumpeter Clark Terry, pianist Tommy Flanagan and drummer Grady Tate.
Reeves embodies the spirit of jazz artists with her wide range of material, including world music. Her earliest jobs included touring with Sergio Mendes and Harry Belafonte. As a recording star, her projects reflected global influences and Afro-American culture. In particular, she was moved by the work of Marvin Gaye. Her vocal style is complex and demonstrates considerable range, including scatting. She was the original female artist to sign with Blue Note Records. Over her career, she has won a total of four Grammys (including three consecutive albums).
Pure Pleasure Records has re-mastered her classic 1991 album, I Remember to audiophile vinyl. Recorded in two sessions two-and-a half years apart, this is more than a predictable collection of standards. Reeves opens with a funky percussion-backed arrangement of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue”. In the tradition of the original vocals by African-jazz pioneer Abby Lincoln, her vocals are exotic, with great range. The musical arrangement has an early seventies vibe, and the falsetto “yells” are intriguing. Paying homage to Sarah Vaughan, she offers a fresh medley (“The Nearness Of You/Misty”). Together with a finger-snapping bass line (Chris Severin), an unconventional interpretation is explored. After a chorus of “The Nearness Of You”, she injects the bridge from “Misty”. The rhythm section of Severin and Billy Kilson (drums) frames Billy Child’s piano solo.
The selection of material is both eclectic and commercially appealing. A lesser known Stephen Sondheim ballad, “I Remember Sky” (from Evening Primrose) is wistful and explores the composition with poetic phrasing. The initial piano/voice interplay is a nice touch. Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale” (a song with a definite connection to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald) is remade into a nuanced gospel take that morphs into bop swing. This time, Reeves demonstrates her middle and lower-range tones. Two ballads (“Like A Lover”, “You Taught My Heart To Sing”) underscore the singer’s ability to infuse an emotional pulse into standard balladry. On the former, she trades riffs with Kevin Eubanks (acoustic guitar) in a bossa nova-shaded duet. The latter song (by McCoy Tyner) offers a melody that is graceful and contains an elegant solo by Mulgrew Miller (piano).
Bur Reeves has a sharper edge. On “Softly As In The Morning Sunrise,” she fits into the hard bop instrumental with spirited jazzy vocals. Bobby Hutcherson lifts the piece with his nimble vibes playing. Taking on another Fitzgerald classic (“How High The Moon”), she jams with the band who mold several Latin-infused themes into the mix. This is one singer who is not gun-shy about reinventing jazz classics.
Pure Pleasure Records maintains its stature in analogue technology. Reeves’ impressive range is captured in rich, deep textures. Every detail (including the acoustic guitar and vibes) is rendered with pristine clarity and aural fullness. There are finely-tuned separation and volume levels.
I Remember will enhance any jazz vinyl collection.
Side One: Afro Blue; The Nearness Of You/Misty; I Remember Sky; Love For Sale; Softly As The Morning Sunrise
Side Two: Like A Lover; How High The Moon; You Taught My Heart To Sing; For All We Know
This is a delightful holiday collection.