The thing that amazed me about Dianne Reeves’ voice is her ability to improvise. Not being a big fan of vocal improvisation, I was impressed with how she was able to set her self apart from other jazz vocalists. Her improvisations truly sounded like an instrument. The saxophone is the instrument that came to mind. The strength of her voice and the subtleties in her phrasing were her most distinctive characteristics.
Like many great musicians, she is an excellent storyteller. She talked about growing up in Denver and demonstrated her inclination to improvise over a piece of music by Bach. Sarah Vaughn, who revealed to her to possibilities of jazz, provided the inspiration. While singing in Clark Terry’s band, Dianne Reeves eventually opened for Sarah. Dianne then provided us a glimpse into her childhood, when her aunt would sit at the piano and play the blues. She taught Dianne all the blues lyrics and Dianne amused her relatives by belting out lyrics she really didn’t understand. Dianne then shared with the audience a blues medley, which included Rocks In My Bed.
From beautiful renditions of the standards Skylark and Misty to the moving originals Nine and Better Days, Dianne Reeves showed why she is considered among the upper echelon of today’s jazz singers. Her band was fantastic and consisted of Peter Martin on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Greg Hutchinson (musical director) on drums. Unfortunately, more people were not there to witness a memorable evening of music.
Grazyna Auguscik, a native of Poland who currently resides in Chicago, is a rising vocalist. She opened the show with a short but invigorating set. Her group was made up of two guitarists, a bass player, and Milwaukee native Ernie Adams on drums. Ernie was brilliant, putting deep grooves into the eclectic sounds of the band. The music was a fusion of many styles-world music, ambient music, jazz and even a tinge of gothic rock. The version of Blue Skies was noteworthy as was the closing number, a Polish folk song.