Last evening at the sumptuous Strathmore Music Center in suburban DC a robust audience was treated to an intimate and surpassing performance from Dianne Reeves, one of the consummate vocal artists of our time. Years from now I have little doubt that Dianne Reeves will be judged in the royal pantheon of vocal stylists in the art of the improvisers that includes Billie, Ella, Sarah, Carmen, Betty and the masters of the form. Reeves’ artistry continues its upward evolution on the wings of her marvelous ability to tell a story, converse successfully with her band — which in actuality is more of a family at this point, with Peter Martin on piano, Romero Lubambo on guitar, drummer Terreon Gully, and the bassist Reginald Veal (once again proving the essential nature of the singer’s connection to an adept and sensitive bassist that Billie and Ella used to extol) — and truly connect with an audience.
When those skills are coupled with a gorgeous, supple vocal instrument at once able to comfortably leap tall intervals and plumb the depths of her lower register, you have a woman who is truly one of the great singers of our time. The icing on the cake is her carefully plotted repertoire and pacing, where she can go from “The Twelfth of Never” to a down-home blues duet with Veal’s wickedly plucked bass to Jobim’s “Once I Loved” to her inimitable stories of family, home and growing up amidst the childhood innocence of her age. At this point it just doesn’t get any better than Dianne Reeves, just ask the legions who went home from Strathmore thoroughly thrilled that they’d made the right Valentine’s Day choice for a warm evening with their loved one.