Growing up in Denver, Coloraexecute, 2018 NEA Jazz Master Dianne Reeves was surrounded by music. “I flourished up through many type of generations in my family members,” she shelp, “and so I listened to and also loved the music that everybody would certainly play and also listen to, bereason I would certainly view just how they commemorated the music.” Reeves has gone on to be among jazz’s great vocalists, through a far-reaching range stretching throughout musical genres. 

Tright here were many type of impacts in Reeves’ life and also musical career, including many kind of notable womales. From her Aunt Kay, that taught her the blues at a very early age; to Bennie L. Williams, a renowned music teacher in Denver and also founder of the Spiritual Voices choir group; to the impetus of NEA Jazz Masters Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, and also Sarah Vaughan, these woguys have had a lasting impression on Reeves and her music. She talked around the female impacts on her music throughout her intersee via the NEA’s Josephine Reed in December 2017. An excerpt of that interwatch adheres to. 


I had this one aunt, Kay, that played the piano and also sang the blues. Her sisters and also brothers were a part of Vaudeville, and they did every one of this wonderful music. But she would sing these blues that were like Ma Rainey or Bessie Smith, that had actually these dual meanings.

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When we’d gain together in the time of the holidays, she would play, and also my uncle would play bass, and she would certainly always teach me one of those songs. She’d teach me these lyrics, and also I’d be singing them and also doing the dance that she confirmed me, exactly how to shimmy, and the adults would certainly be cracking up laughing. 

It took me to around the age of 22 to realize what I was actually singing about. 


My junior high college teacher, Bennie Williams, was really even more than a music teacher. She taught us poetry. She aided us put on college mirrors. She did all these kinds of things to assist us stand also in each other’s shoes, and it was a really powerful time.

That’s when I uncovered that I might sing. I’ll never forget; I was on the phase singing, and I didn’t understand how to move or anypoint, and also she said, “Put your arm out.” I put my arm out, and I just left it tright here, and she’s prefer, “Put it dvery own.” But I’m singing, and I’m loving just how I feel singing, and I’m loving the power that is coming from being able to execute this.

I remember my grandmommy provided to constantly say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” But when I realized that music was inside of me, I decided I’m putting all my eggs in one basket. 


Reeves as a young singer. Picture courtesy of Dianne Reeves


In high college, we had a really good jazz program that I lastly had the ability to be a component of. They just wanted instrumentalists; they didn’t want any kind of singers. But I made my means in, and I remember the conductor of the band also wrote most arrangements and also asked me what I wanted to sing. 

Tbelow was this document that Sarah Vaughan did with Michel Legrand. She did “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” and also I loved the plan. I loved the means she sang it, bereason her voice simply appeared to go on forever before, eextremely color, eexceptionally note—her variety was beautiful and also wide.

I learned the song verbatim, simply choose she sang it, and we would certainly perdevelop it through the high institution jazz band also. One day, my uncle sassist, “You understand, that’s probably one of the 2 or three takes that she did. But after that, I’m certain she never before, ever sang it like that aobtain.”

He said, “You uncover your very own method to sing the song,” and also that was the start of me trying to uncover my own voice.


I was in high school, and there was a club dubbed the Wareresidence. On the weekends, they would certainly have a jam session , and also I ended up getting a gig there. They tell me Ella Fitzgerald’s coming.

I’m like, “Oh, my God.” I went to see her upstairs. She swung all this Beatles music, and I didn’t also understand you could perform that. She was expected to be there 3 nights, and she ended her appearances there bereason the altitude right here was a little bit much. But her wardrobe was still unpacked and still in her dressing room.

So they tell me the following day, “You have to go on, bereason Ms. Fitzgerald is not going to be here and also we need you to sing a pair of songs.” The following night, I’m sitting in her dressing room, looking at all of these gowns, and also tbelow was a pair of periwinkle blue, patent leather pumps sitting off to the side.

I put my feet in them. I went onphase, and also I sang the 3 songs in her stead, and the totality time I was looking down at my feet, reasoning, “I have actually on Ella Fitzgerald’s shoes.” 


I had this band also in Los Angeles, and Joey called me. He said, “Come down right here. You acquired to view this lady. She’s singing. She has actually an additional display. She’s right here all week at Hop Sing’s. I got a ticket for you. Just come down.” So I came all the means from Glendale, and also there she was.

It was the beginning of the second set, initially night. When Betty Carter gone into the stage, it was magnificent. When she opened up her mouth to sing, it was this extraplain spirit that poured out onto the phase. There’s this person that had this exceptionally, exceptionally broad array that had actually just jumped off the edge and also was flying on the stage. She had this relationship with time that left you in kind of suspfinished computer animation. 

I checked out every present, every night after that. It was choose a spiritual endure.

I’ll never before forgain, I went to the Tower Records, and also here’s Bet-Car Records. I’m favor, she has her own record label? So I bought a turntable. I had actually this record player erected with her records all around the speakers, via flowers. It looked prefer an altar, and also I sat in front of that thing and also simply listened. I couldn’t gain sufficient.

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It’s favor seeing a glimpse of something that you identify in your heart, but currently you obtain to see a spark of it, and that spark really changed my life. She gave me this type of courage that shelp, “Do the points that are in your heart, your authentic things.” Tright here was nobody prefer Betty Carter. 


Reeves with bhelp James Genus at the 2017 NEA Jazz Masters Tribute Concert. Photograph by Shannon Finney


The thing that I tell young human being is everybody is distinct in their strategy to the music, and you have to safeguard that. I tell them to specify it, refine it, be able to call on it, be able to stand also in it, be able to at any moment jump off the edge with it, because you’re so inside of it.

But even more than anything is simply to stay concentrated and also continue to be in love via what it is that you are doing. If you love it and also you’re passionate about it, it’s going to take you places—probably not wright here this perkid is going or that perchild, but where you need to go.