Proof, yet again, of the dismal state of the music industry: It’s taken five years for Dianne Reeves to release a new album following her departure from Blue Note Records. But there is also plenty of good news associated with her delayed return. She’s landed at Concord, a label with a long tradition of handling vocalists with taste, intelligence and, most blessedly, minimal interference. She’s solicited Terri Lyne Carrington to produce Beautiful Life and to play (and, in two instances, sing) on 10 of its dozen tracks. And she and Carrington have assembled a remarkable spectrum of guests, including Gregory Porter, Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper, Lalah Hathaway, Geri Allen, Raul Midón and Grégoire Maret.
The half-decade absence has done nothing to diminish the power or glory of Reeves’ voice on record. Though she’s long been touted as an heir to Ella or Sarah, here she adopts a smoother, more soulful sound that’s closer in spirit to Anita Baker. Excepting “Stormy Weather,” Reeves’ choices in covers also lean toward the contemporary, ranging from a thundering, Glasper-propelled rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and a downy pairing with Hathaway on Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” to a densely sensual twining with Porter on Carrington’s “Satiated (Been Waiting).”
Rounding out the playlist are five originals written or co-written by Reeves. All are good; two—the post-breakup anthem “Cold” and the fiery “Tango”—are exceptional.