Dianne Reeves ‘Beautiful Life’ (Concord/Universal) 4/5

Dianne-Reeves-Beautiful-LifeHer first studio album in at least five years with other duties including performing the music to George Clooney’s film ‘Good Night and Good Luck’, singer Dianne Reeves returns with a revisiting of her musical influences from her youth that takes in elements of R & B, pop and Latin among the classic American songbook. Surrounded by a stellar line up of jazz and soul musicians that includes the late, great keyboardist George Duke (who just happened to be her cousin and regular arranger/producer) in what must have been one of his very last recordings, pianists Gerald Clayton and Robert Glasper, bassists Richard Bona and Esperanza Spalding, vocalists Lalah Hathaway and Gregory Porter, and produced by Terri Lynne Carrington, this is a classy affair from start to finish. Reeves’ soulful delivery has always been sympathetic to the historic side of R & B and here the title track to Marvin Gaye’s epochal 1976 album ‘I want you’ serves as the pretext for some delightful Likewise a take on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dream’, Reeves reveals herself to be a keen listener of singer-songwriter territory. It should come as no surprise, then, that among the classic material two new songs are showcased here with ‘Cold’ and ‘Satiated (been waiting)’ perhaps the pick and reeves ends up co-writing on several songs here which is an interesting new direction for her to take. For a complete change of musical environment Reeves’ own composition ‘Tango’ takes the singer in a different direction altogether and her regular forays into the world of Latin music surely merits an entire album devoted to the music of Latin America. World roots beats surface also in her treatment of Bob Marley’s ‘Waitin’ in vain’ while for traditionalists, ‘Stormy Weather’ is a bona fide jazz standard that Reeves succeeds in breathing new life into. Dianne Reeves is quite simply one of the finest jazz singers of her generation. Tim Stenhouse