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The Ultimate Spoleto Review: "Dianne Reeves and Band Scintillates"
6/3/2015 3:46:23 PM

(l-r) Pianist Peter Martin, bassist Reginald Veal, superstar Dianne Reeves, drummer Terreon Gully and guitarist Peter Sprague captured in a musical moment at their fantastic Spoleto Festival USA?2015 concert at the College of Charleston’s Cistern Yard.
By Hakim Abdul-Ali
Spoleto Festival USA 2015's second week could not have started off with a more resplendent boost than its presentation of five-time Grammy winner, Dianne Reeves and her truly imposing band of skilled musicians for another one of Wells Fargo Jazz Series' events. They were at their optimum best and supremely ideal.
Sometimes, serendipitous words that some critics of the arts use in referencing some performers and their performances only sugar coat some of them in polite and generic norms of describing their skills and talents. Unfortunately, the descriptive stories, or coverages, of them that some critics like me write about has to be correctly elevated in qualified comparisons to other higher-level performers and performances.
Simply, some performing artists are good, and some others are superbly better, if you're objectively fair in assessing those artists and what they do from observational and critical points of view. As a cultural critic for this newspaper, I know that you as a reader of this respected newspaper, wouldn't expect less of me to call it "As I See It," no matter what the arena is that I report about.
Well, let me tell you this, last Saturday's May 30, 2015, show by this wondrously gifted voiced singer and her tight quintessential band was one of the best outdoor shows that I've ever seen at this renowned musical venue. Before a listed more 2,000 attendees, Diane Reeves and her band literally rocked the joint in a spellbinding display of vocal and instrumental genius that was electrifying to witness.
You definitely had to be there at the College of Charleston's Cistern Yard to dig the vibes of what this marvelously talented vocal artist and her accompanying musicians offered in their little more than an hour long song fest that was spontaneous from the very beginning to the pulsating encore. The scene was stirring and rousing.
First, after an introduction by Spoleto Festival USA Wells Fargo Jazz Series' director, Michael Grofsorean, the band, featuring pianist Peter Martin, drummer Terreon Gully, guitarist Peter Sprague and bassist extraordinaire Reginald Veal, entered the stage playing as a solo entity, performing a groovy and well-received interpretation of the classic "Summertime" that sounded like the maximum best from any band's innovated smooth jazz presentation.  Everyone in the audience could sense, as I obviously could, that Ms. Reeves' stimulating band was distinctly accomplished and that these guys knew what they were doing.
With Martin on piano and Sprague on guitar, you knew that drummer Gully and bassist Veal we're going to bring something spectacular to exhibit in order to bring out the very best of the band's coordinated soulful texture. They most assuredly did as the audience was seduced into a semi-hypnotic groove as the band collectively took the tune "Summertime" to new heights.
After their instrumental solo, Ms. Dianne Reeves, made her entrance in an elegant white full length classy dress, flashing a gorgeous smile, singing "Dreams" in a twelve minute smooth delivery of this sweet song that included Ms. Reeves' unique infectious scatting style midway through the song. As I've said before, Diane  Reeves is a singer's singer, and and she profoundly was on her way in delivering further proof of that and why she's so recognized as being one of the best female, if not the very best, jazz vocalists alive today.
She moved on to her second tune, "Stormy Weather," in such a way that made this classic always seemed so personal due to Ms. Reeves' effervescently powerful, but ever-so-clear vocal dexterity in handling the nuancing of the lyrics. The captive audience was at this time in awe of her special artistry and obvious consummate talents as a singer.
This native of Detroit, Michigan, then segued into the delightful "Tango," a piece where she vicariously ventures into improvisational scatting, reflecting upon and using parts of tunes from world music. This showed her ingenious mastery as a singer and an avant-garde performer as she joyfully proclaimed before the enlightened crowd during this seventeen minute number, which she described as her way of singing "Songs With No Words." Its delivery was a resounding smash.
Dianne Reeves then in her next song began to reminisce about singing a song from the George Clooney's movie, "Good Night, and Good Luck," a film she acted in.  The song was called "One for My Baby" and she and the brilliant bassist Reginald Veal took the audience to a dynamic ride to lost love and more with voice and bass "talking" to each with musical verve and fun loving entertainment.
Song number six was Ms. Reeves' unique cover of Bob Marley's legendary classic, "Waiting in Vain" and it was her smooth interpretive delivery by Ms. Reeves again that tweeted the sentimentalities of the audience, who may have had their own flow to what the lyrics meant and said. In any case, the audience was alive with musical openness as the band with the guitarist Sprague and drummer Gully adding consistent, funky reggae like licks that made the audience move instinctively as they rhythmically patted their feet to the contagious beat in what was supposed to be the final tune for the night.
But that wasn't the end as Ms. Reeves and her band closed out the stellar evening's affair with her interpretation of singer Mali Music's "Beautiful," with a soulful rendition of her own. You had to be there to witnessed what came next as Ms. Reeves asked the audience to wave their lighted cell phones to the emotive lyrics of her touching version of "Beautiful."
As the complying audience of two thousand plus stood and waved their lighted cell phones back and forth and from side -to-side, the Cistern Yard was transformed into a mystically illuminated place to be musically a part of. It was a majestic testament to the prowess of Dianne Reeves and her band's celebratory status as being elite performers, who in my humble assessment, were the superlative class of all of this year's Wells Fargo Jazz Series performers thus far.
They delivered what was expected of them and more. On that evening, you could only call them the best at what they all do so very, very well. They set the jazz standards of musical expressions and vocal excellence so high that no one could, or would, argue that last Saturday night's showcase was something to see and not miss. It was in and from another spectrum.
Dianne Reeves and her  groovy band mates delivered the goods big time and, as such, they  helped cement this year's festival jazz offerings, in my unbiased opinion, as one of the all time best live shows ever. It was something to behold and hear. All I can say is that, it was "the ultimate."

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