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Forever in the moment 

Jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves' music reflects her upbringing

What happens when you grow up in a family drenched in music? One possibility is that you decide you hate music. Another is that you become jazz darling Dianne Reeves.

Reeves' unique jazz sound stems in part from a confluence of musical styles that run in her family. She remembers watching her uncle's hands as he performed in the Denver Symphony Orchestra. She also recalls stories about her two great aunts, who had their own piano-and-vocal act back in the vaudeville days.

Even Reeves' mother, who wasn't graced with musical talent, influenced her lifelong yearning to be a singer.

"I would listen to these Longines Symphonettes with her, which were kind of hokey, but, you know, they were cool," says Reeves. "I kind of grew up in an atmosphere that if you wanted to be in music you could ... thank God that that existed [for me]."

After living in New York and Los Angeles, Reeves returned to Denver, where she grew up and went on to study music at the University of Colorado.

"The peacefulness that I get from living in Colorado has really been something that has allowed me to express myself in the way that I do. I've been all over the world and I've seen beautiful places, but there's something about the beginning of Spring [in Colorado]."

In addition, Reeves was lucky enough to grow up in the heyday of Motown Records. "More than any one particular artist ... it was really the times that was the greatest musical inspiration."

Just like her influences, Reeves can't even begin to pin down her music to any one genre. If you think you know what jazz is, she wants you to think again. "Jazz is the kind of music that has a lot to do with your perception of the music."

For Reeves, jazz is a combination of everything that she is, whether that's rock, soul, or Latin music. She enjoys surprising audiences with her variety, but still stays true to the music for which she's best known: "My foundation is jazz and we have a jazz sensibility in that we have improvisation, but basically I'm a storyteller."

Those "stories" managed to get the singer all the way to a stage in the middle of the closing ceremony for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.

"It was like three or four minutes and then it was over, but it was a great three to four minutes," says Reeves, as she recalls her moments on the ice. The performance was hailed as one of the most memorable of the ceremony, and she marks it as one of the most amazing experiences in her life. "I could have stood up there with nothing and I never would have felt the cold because the energy was just awesome."

The experience reinforced Reeves' philosophy of always living immersed in the moment, which is how she says all of her albums have been made. For Reeves, music is all about feeling that energy, which also involves leaving room for others.

"The process is always to bring really great musicians together, sketch out the arrangements, and have room for them to put their heart and soul and character into the song," says Reeves. "Then it becomes something really special and unique."

sarah@csindy.com

  • Jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves' music reflects her upbringing

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