Dianne Reeves Elevates ‘American Voices’ Concert at Kennedy Center
Posted 12/4/2013

Dianne Reeves sang only one song on Nov. 23 at the Kennedy Center’s “American Voices” concert in Washington, D.C. Nevertheless, her performance was the evening’s most radiant moment. Hosted and curated by classical vocalist Renée Fleming, the multigenre event celebrated jazz, opera, bluegrass, gospel and pop singers.

It’s rare to hear Reeves sing in front of a large orchestra, but she held her own with the National Symphony Orchestra while singing Jeff Franzel and Tom Kimmel’s “When You Know,” a staple in her expansive repertoire.

Reeves invited Peter Martin, her longtime pianist, to tickle the ivories, affording her performance an improvisational pliability. Reeves’ majestic alto soared, swiveled and spiraled through the lissome melody as she imbued the sagacious lyrics with immediate conviction and conversational phrasing. After a wordless improvisation that enveloped sounds from Africa and Latin America, she encouraged the audience to join in some playful antiphony.

Kurt Elling was scheduled to be the other superstar representing jazz, but a sudden bout with laryngitis prevented him from singing. Filling in for Elling were two students who participated in Reeves’ master class the night before. Los Angeles-based Michael Mayo crooned an admirable take of Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons’ “All Of Me,” showcasing a supple tenor and improvisational daringness. New York-based Kate Davis roused the audience with her captivating soprano on Jimmy Eaton and Terry Shand’s “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart And Throw Away The Key” and demonstrated notable skills on upright bass.

In addition to Reeves, performers included Alison Krauss, Ben Folds, Kim Burrell and Eric Owens, among others.

PBS filmed the concert and will air the footage next year as part of its “Great Performances” series.

On Feb. 11, 2014, Reeves will release Beautiful Life (Concord), which includes her interpretations of compositions by Bob Marley and Ani DiFranco, as well as the standard “Stormy Weather” and five songs either written or co-written by Reeves.

John Murph

Dianne Reeves at the Kennedy Center on Nov. 23 (Photo: Scott Suchman)

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