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Spotlights [Issue # 12 ]
Dianne Reeves: Christmas Time Is Here

By Jason Sklar

Snowflakes falling, cookies baking, mistletoe overhead, and Christmas carols filling homes with spirited holiday cheer.

Many Christmas practices follow tradition - picking out a tree from a favorite lot, decorating trees with coveted ornaments, and cherishing time with our families. In true Christmas spirit, Dianne Reeves and co-producer/ pianist Peter Martin have put together a new album well suited for spending yuletide by the fireside. In lieu of those soggy, old Christmas records, why not opt for a spot of sonorous sophistication?

Christmas Time Is Here leaves nothing to chance with relaxed composition that tastefully transitions each song from one section to the next. Reeves’ voice possesses a rich confidence akin to Carmen McRae, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald. Her resolute tone fits beautifully in the context of harmonies and counterpoints provided by the rhythm section.

Reeves’ Christmas Time Is Here puts a little New Orleans in the “Little Drummer Boy,” a lot of swing in “Carol of the Bells,” and a bit of bossa on lesser known, but equally enjoyable “This Time of the Year.” So often Reeves is on the road during the holidays touring in Japan, Austria, or Berlin. For this reason, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” often holds a partly ironic meaning as she wishes to be home “if only in my dreams. Sometimes I am not home, but I always send my heart and love to everybody.”

For the past three years, Reeves has received Best Jazz Vocal Album Grammy awards for In the Moment - Live in Concert (2000), The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughn (2001), and A Little Moonlight (2003). Impressively, Reeves is the only artist in any genre to ever pull a hat trick, winning awards back-to-back-to-back - clear evidence that the reinvigorated Bluenote/EMI record label had some sharp ears when it signed Reeves as its first vocalist back in 1987.
In addition to racking up Grammy recognition, Reeves has enjoyed her two-year stint as the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s first Creative Chair for Jazz. This privilege has had her curate jazz performances for the Hollywood Bowl and The Walt Disney Concert Hall.

When performing at The Walt Disney Concert Hall a year ago, Reeves was inspired to put together a Christmas album for the upcoming year. “I tried to approach it like an album and arrange songs in a way so you could play them longer than Christmas,” says Reeves.

Her enormous voice carpets Christmas songs with the same bold preciseness as on other works. Selecting songs to appear on the album was one of the toughest challenges of the process. “Some of the songs I’ve been acquainted with, but you don’t really hear them that often,” explains Reeves. “‘A Child is Born’ is not really a Christmas song, but I thought it was befitting - a Thad Jones composition.”

Guitarist Romero Lubambo, saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Joe Locke, and the Sirius String Quartet accompany her along with stalwarts Reuben Rogers and Gregory Hutchinson on bass and drums, respectively. “Each musician could have their own band,” Reeves says. Keeping this in mind, the arrangements tactfully account for the musicians’ strong personalities.

“We have so much trust. I’ve never had a back-up band,” she comments. Recognizing her bandmates’ distinctive abilities to be co-creators allows everyone involved to make a part his own while collaborating to produce a cohesive group sound.

“I try to at least paint pictures of what I have to address in my life,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the down time and not having a schedule.” She plans to spend Christmas cooking desserts and delectable meals in her home in Denver and spending time with her family while sharing her voice in other homes via Christmas Time Is Here.

Christmas Time Is Here
Blue Note

Christmas Time Is Here Dianne Reeves Christmas Time Is Here

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