Concert Review: Dianne Reeves with "Strings Attached" at Duke University

Dianne Reeves with Russell Malone & Romero Lubambo (Strings Attached) perform a unique fantastic show Duke University!

Dianne Reeves’ fans were in full force Friday evening, October 9, 2009, at Duke University’s Page Auditorium, Durham, North Carolina. The near-capacity crowd, composed of mostly females, seemed to hang on every thing Reeves said and sang. She is a wonderful storyteller and every tune on the program began with a delightful, quite timely talk. Her rich, finely-tuned voice was in its usually superb form and she was applauded throughout the almost two hour concert. At times, it almost felt like a church service, complete with amens and steady encouragement from the Sunday-go-to-meeting dressed audience.
The concert, which featured guitarists, Georgia-born Russell Malone and Brazilian-born Romero Lubambo, was billed as “Strings Attached.” It grew out of a successful 25-date European tour the trio performed last year. The highlights included a tasty rendition of the classic Jon Hendricks composition “Social Call” which was sultry and quite pleasing to the ear. The audience responded with a strong sustained ovation that caused Ms. Reeves to smile and say; “What a wonderful audience. We got to come back here soon!” “Social Call” is one of those tunes that vocalists seem to love to sing because it is full of hidden messages and innuendos about a love affair that deserves a second chance. Dianne paced herself on the tune and allowed the beautiful guitar work of the two masters to flow behind her lovely gospel-tinged voice. It was the second composition of the set, and a splendid sign of what was to come.
Ms. Reeves sang an excellent reading of “Misty” later on in the set which was preceded by a humorous monologue about how she met Sarah Vaughan backstage at a concert in Los Angeles. She said she struck up a conversation with a lady she met backstage and told her all about Sarah Vaughan, not knowing it was Sarah until “Sassy” was called on stage. Ms. Reeves said she was embarrassed and dedicated “Misty” to Sarah and to her uncle who turned her on to “the divine one” when she was a youngster. Her rendition was replete with the operatic ups and downs similar to the way “Sassy’ would have done it. But Diane’s voice was earthier and her interpretation had a much more contemporary feel to it. It was clearly the best selection of the night.
The guitarists also performed splendidly by themselves after glowing introductions from Ms. Reeves. The Brazilian Lubambo played a all too short colorful “How Insensitive,” which left the appreciative crowd wanting more. His playing sounded like two or three people playing at the same time and set the pace for a festive, fun-filled evening. Later, Russell Malone, who did a flawless job throughout the evening as a team player, with correct, unassuming notes and flavorings in the proper place, played a thoughtful, tear-jerking , moving Micheal Jackson piece called “I’ll Be There.” The audience loved it and some of them responded by laughing and giving him a standing ovation.
The concert ended with the gathering requesting and getting an encore. Ms. Reeves obliged them with the only original of the night. She chose “Better Days,” a tune that included a monologue about her grandmother and her family. It was just as touching as her singing, and was a joyful, inspiring way to end the concert. The happy, satisfied crowd left Page Auditorium supremely fulfilled, so much so, that many of them lined up to buy Ms. Reeves’s recordings on sale in the packed lobby. Congratulations to the ambitious Duke Performances’ Aaron Greenwald and Ken Rumble, for a thrilling memorable event that was the epitome of professionalism in every sense. What a night!

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Larry Reni Thomas