Five-time Grammy Award-winner Dianne Reeves and her band, appearing in Spoleto Festival’s jazz series, engulfed the Cistern Yard crowd of 2,000 in soul Saturday night.
The Dianna Reeves Quartet featuring Peter Sprague on guitar, Reginald Veal on bass, Terreon Gully on drums and Reeves’ long-time musical director, arranger and pianist Peter Martin. The Quartet swung “Summertime” with smiles on their faces, making the tune seem more like a laid back jam session than an operatic masterpiece.
The chemistry between the musicians sparked brighter when Reeves came on stage for the second song, a version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” that dripped with an emotion Stevie Nicks never quite tapped into.
Reeves maintained that feeling and poise throughout the rest of her seven-song set. Even when she was scatting (as she did for an entire song she said was based on music she loved in languages she couldn’t comprehend) poise and emotion were clearly conveyed.
Reeves’ intensity hit a high when she sang “One For My Baby (and One More For the Road).” The tune was the last song featured in “Good Night, and Good Luck,” the 2005 film based on the conflict between journalist Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, written and directed by George Clooney. Reeves played a singer in the movie, performing live as the cameras rolled.
“Let me tell you something about George,” Reeves said. Clooney is better looking in person. “He’d be telling me things to do and I’d be dreaming.”
Clooney also told Reeves that jazz is best delivered and best appreciated live, which, judging by “One For My Baby,” proved absolutely true. The song began with a bass solo by Veal to be reckoned with. Reeves joined the solo bass and sang the blues.
“I feel King B.B. in the house right now,” she belted.
One by one, the rest of the band joined in, building the sparse blues into a full and lush tune that had the audience nodding and swaying in approval.
After Reeves introduced her quartet, she left the stage, only to return to shouts of “One more song!”
Reeves reemerged, singing “I put my lighter in the air for you” to a sea of illuminated, swaying cell phones. (Who carries a lighter anymore?)
When Reeves descended the Cistern stage, and her band followed, her blues had left the audience anything but blue.
Kate Drozynski is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.