Opera House, Wellington
Friday, June 9
Dianne Reeves returned to New Zealand for this year’s Jazz Festival, first time for her wonderful band though – long-serving pianist Peter Martin and guitarist Romero Lubambo joined by the rhythm section of Reginald Veal (bass) and Terreon Gully (drums).
Reeves last visited New Zealand in 2010 as part of the International Arts Festival’s Nina Simone tribute – she was the star of the show. You get the feeling she’s always the star of the show; a towering presence within every song with a dynamic range, and huge heart and warmth in her demeanour and banter.
She started several of the songs with African-influenced vocalisms and Latin American-styled scatting – the band supple and subtle as they combined Afro-Caribbean flavours with taut reggae riddims; at one point Terreon Gully appeared to be “live-remixing” his own beat by playing the 1 and 2 on one side of the kit and then laying an echoed 3 and 4 on a deeper snare drum on the other side.
Several times I thought of that wonderful Erykah Badu Live album when listening to just the sound of the band. Particularly the dextrous, dynamic and spot-on rhythm work from Veal and Gully. Lubambo’s nylon-string runs were a highlight when
he was seated with the acoustic. And his Pat Metheny-like bubble and burst of electric-guitar sound was of course also wonderful.
Martin, the musical director, held it all together, his acoustic piano playing sublime – again the traces of Latin rhythms and flavours as well as a softer touch for the balladry.
And across it all Reeves’ voice. Huge and reminiscent of the greats such as Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan.
The buoyancy in the band’s musical style and approach was what made it for me. But they knew – for in fact it is there job – to never outshine the star. She deserved every bit of applause of course, it’s a perfect match – this band and that voice. And it was hard to complain, even when, occasionally, the lyrical sentiment was a bit too cheesy, a bit naff.