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September 2003

Dianne Reeves
A Little Moonlight
Blue Note Records

If there were any lingering doubts that Dianne Reeves isn't a first-rate jazz singer, A Little Moonlight should dispel them forever. Reeves has proven herself a topflight vocalist in every category. She can certainly swing and sing the blues with credibility and conviction. Her delivery, phrasing and enunciation are excellent, and most important she's a wonderful storyteller and communicator, something that's certainly not true of every singer who gets lumped into the jazz/improvising category. She's also able to perform repertory without sounding labored, derivative or imitative.

Despite doing several numbers on her newest release that merit the "shopworn" tag, Reeves truly does find ways to make them at least sound contemporary, as there's probably no one living at this point who can make "Skylark," "Darn That Dream" or "Lullaby of Broadway" seem fresh. Still, hearing her delightful scatting at the beginning of "Loads of Love," a lesser-known Richard Rodgers composition, or her careful elaboration of the lyrics in "I Concentrate on You," or the title track, Reeves continually reaffirms her master-vocalist credentials, singing without any coy or unnecessary mannerisms and delivering 10 tremendous examples of great interpretative popular singing. A testament to Reeves' skill is that her rendition of "Make Sure You're Sure," one of Stevie Wonder's lesser numbers, which was previously included in the soundtrack for Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, doesn't sound that out of place on a disc containing several exceptionally written pieces.

It also helps that she has an ace producer in Arif Mardin and a band committed to helping her fully execute the song rather than to highlight their own skills. Trumpeter Nicholas Payton does contribute some shimmering, high-register electricity on "We'll Be Together Again," and guitarist Romero Lubambo nicely embellishes the Afro-Latin mood of "I Concentrate on You" and the sentimental air of "I'm All Smiles." Bassist Ruben Rogers was perfectly recorded; his huge tones resounding in the background are a welcome addition to the overall sound milieu, augmented by pianist Peter Martin and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.

While this isn't a definitive statement album like her last one, The Calling, A Little Moonlight is another addition to Dianne Reeves' glittering legacy.

Originally published in September 2003
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