Jazz Weekend

Deanna Wanner

(Lawrence Berger)

Critics say that Dianne Reeves could lull even the crankiest baby to peace with the power of her chops. Well, she’ll be here in the Chapel on Friday, Nov. 1 at 7:30 pm, ready not only to lull, but to stun the audience with her agile range and rich, full contralto. Calling herself a chameleon, Reeves does not limit herself strictly to jazz. Her singing is influenced by Africa, the Caribbean, and Brazil, and by such styles as gospel, R & B, classic and contemporary pop.

She has not only crossed borders in musical interests, but also performs for a vast international audience ranging as far as London, Berlin, Brazil, and Japan.

Reeves likes to see jazz as an international language because of its improvisational nature. Even if people don’t understand her words, they can still understand her; Reeves believes improvisation is the “utterance of the soul.”

Singing from her soul has brought Reeves four Grammy Award nominations for Best Jazz Vocalist, including the statue and title this year.

Music and fortitude were a major part of Reeves’ childhood. She was born in 1956 and raised in Detroit. Growing up in the 1960s, she experienced the hostility of racism and participated in one of the first desegregation busing programs. She also took part in sit-ins, spoke at schools and sang in a concert that aimed to cut across racial boundaries. Reeves’ father, who was a singer, died of cancer when she was two, so the women in her family inspired the strength she now possesses in her career.

Music ran in the family. Reeves’ mother played trumpet and an uncle, Charles Burrell, played bass in the Colorado Symphony. George Duke, the celebrated keyboardist, composer, and arranger, was her cousin.

At 16, Reeves’ professional career received a boost from trumpeter Clark Terry. After hearing Reeves sing with her high school band Terry invited her to sing with his All-Star groups. Reeves spent the next few years singing in clubs and groups around Los Angeles. She started recording in 1982, showing the world her powerful storytelling voice with her autobiographical hit “Better Days.”

Now, after many popular albums, Reeves spends most of her life on the road, where she can enjoy being close to audiences such as the one that will greet her in the Memorial Chapel on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

The Lawrence Jazz Ensemble and the Lawrence Jazz Singers will open for Reeves. Tickets cost $18 and $16 for adults, $16 and $14 for senior citizens, $14 and $12 for students, and $7 and $6 for LU students/faculty/staff.

Come hear the power of the voice that has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, the jazz legends who inspired her sound.