Blue Note


The Finest In Jazz Since 1939
High Fidelity

The Calling (2001)


Back to
Russell Malone

The ever-restless Dianne Reeves tries to do something unconventional with an utterly conventional idea -- a tribute album to Sarah Vaughan -- and ends up overdoing the whole thing, though it's not really her fault. While the virtuosic Reeves often cannot resist reaching down into her chest register for some daring, earthy, Sassy-like swoops ("Key Largo" and "If You Could See Me Now" are key examples) or a daring vocalise like "A Chamada," she mostly retains her own identity in these 11 tunes, with a bright timbre that cannot be mistaken for that of Sassy. The element that does this project in are the overblown charts for a 36-piece orchestra that sounds a lot bigger and more congested than it is. Arranger/pianist Billy Childs (spelled on two tracks by Robert Freedman) is rarely content to relax and let a groove happen; he's too busy filling every conceivable space with all kinds of swirling, convoluted ideas that compete with, rather than enhance, the singer and the tunes. The one original tune on the session, "I Remember Sarah," opens with a scat chorus, then pianist Mulgrew Miller plays the blues, and Reeves does her familiar style of autobiographical rap in song. The best moment occurs when cagey veteran Clark Terry offers some jive talking in back of Reeves on "I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You" and some deliciously sly plunger mute trumpet work, fighting the orchestra all the way. Of course, it could be said that an over the top tribute to this larger than life diva is the only appropriate thing to do, but that doesn't make this session -- recorded quickly in the old manner -- any more listenable.