In The Moment – Live In Concert (Blue Note Records)

Dianne Reeves

Released July 4, 2000

Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album 2001




Dianne Reeves has earned a reputation as a song stylist with no boundaries and no inhibitions.

From her earliest recordings on Palo Alto Jazz to favorites such as “Never Too Far” and “Better Days”, Reeves has been unafraid to experiment vocally and musically, unafraid to pour her thoughts and experiences into her music.

Her latest recording, “In the Moment: Live in Concert” (Blue Note), is no exception. The album, recorded this year at a Los Angeles sound stage before about 400 fans and released July 18, features an array of songs that trace the singer’s footsteps from her early days with Sergio Mendes (“Bridges”) to her most recent creation, “The Best Times (Grandma’s Song)” (RealAudio excerpt). En route she visits Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” casts a spellbinding rendition of Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale” and narrates “The First Five Chapters,” a song based on the poem “Autobiography in Five Chapters” by actress/singer/author Portia Nelson.

The album opens with the classic “Morning Has Broken” (RealAudio excerpt), a song Reeves, 43, said she has long appreciated.

“It’s like an invocation,” she said. “I’ve always loved that song. I love the fact that it celebrates the new day, which is not promised, and it also says that the new day is yours; you can make it into anything you want. For me, at the top of my shows, it’s always really special to have something like this that pulls all the spirits together.”

Reeves takes the song — and many others on the album — personally; she said a connection with lyrical content is her main criteria for song selection.

“[The songs must] address my life or my hopes or my understanding,” she said. “Performing on stage, the words are powerful. They become like affirmations for me.”

And for others. It was Reeves’ 1987 hit “Better Days” that endeared her to fans as an artist and a storyteller. Reeves builds on that song’s lessons in “The Best Times (Grandma’s Song),” in which she once again recounts precious memories of her childhood days with her grandmother. She opens the song with the closing lines from “Better Days” — “She used to sit me on her knee/ She used to comb my hair/ She used to tell me stories/ She took me everywhere” — and closes it with a refrain from “Better Days” that recalls her grandmother’s simple but profound advice to “be patient.”

The song “Testify” also comes from Reeves’ life. “I had a cousin who was graduating from high school. She started asking me a lot of questions about going out into the world, and I just started thinking about those things and that’s how the song kinda came to be, from some of the things that I was telling her.”

Against a funky gospel backdrop, Reeves sings, “So sweet the journey when you learn to love yourself, accept yourself, forgive yourself, believe in yourself, be yourself.”

Profound messages throughout “In the Moment” are not the album’s only highlights. Reeves’ vocal performance — sprinkled throughout with scats and African chants — makes the songs vivid.

Comparing her scatting abilities to “speaking in tongues,” Reeves said, “Improvisation is really the utterance of your soul, and while it’s important to understand harmonically, melodically and rhythmically what’s going on, improvisation has something to do with words that are there that you can’t speak.”

The African influences, she said, came from working with Calypso singer Harry Belafonte in the ’80s. “He put me in a situation as a featured singer but with an amazing band of musicians who were from all over,” Reeves said. “We rehearsed in such a way that it was like a workshop setting, and there was all this music that came out of Africa as well as the Caribbean rhythmic bass music.

“Then I ended up moving to New York and getting involved in the Yoruba religion. So all of these things kind of brought me to that place.”

George Duke, who produced In the Moment, regards the album as “wonderful” and “unique.” He said he helped create the live recording atmosphere:

“My idea for the record, and she concurred, was to make it sound like a show so the music is continuous from beginning to end. It only stops for her to introduce another song. I can’t think of anything in recent times where there has been a complete album of a show that feels like a show, like you’re actually there. That’s what we were trying to achieve.”

Keyboardist Duke, 54, sits in on “Come In” and is introduced by Reeves as “my cousin, my friend, my counsel.”

“Dianne, in many ways, is like my best friend,” he said. “She’s younger than me obviously, and she calls me about a lot of different things. … I try to keep her focused. … An artist like her is so rare. There are so few in this generation: somebody that’s willing to take a chance, do something different musically, especially in the jazz field, and she’s one of the few left. She is our Sarah Vaughan, our Carmen McCrae of this generation.”

Track Listing:

1. Morning Has Broken (Traditional) 9:20

2. Afro Blue (Oscar Brown, Jr. / Mongo Santamaria) 5:48

3. The First Five Chapters (Dianne Reeves) 7:16

4. Triste (Antônio Carlos Jobim) 4:40

5. Bridges (Fernando Brant / Gene Lees / Milton Nascimento) 5:35

6. Love for Sale (Cole Porter) 7:31

7. Come In (Billy Childs / Diane Louie / Dianne Reeves) 7:44

8. The Best Times (Grandma’s Song) (Dianne Reeves) 8:38

9. Testify (Munyungo Jackson / Dianne Reeves) 5:56

10. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen) 5:24

11. Mista (Chris Parks / Dianne Reeves) 5:59


Dianne Reeves: lead vocals
Otmaro Ruiz: piano, synthesizers, background vocals

Reginald Veal: bass, background vocals

Roscoe Bryant: drums, background vocals

Romero Lubambo: guitar

Munyungo Jackson: percussion, background vocals

George Duke: additional keys, background vocals, piano (7)

Wayne Holmes: additional background vocals

Recorded live at Studio Instrument Rentals Sound Stage 1 on January 20 & 21, 2000 in Los Angeles, California

Producer: George Duke

Recorded by Erik Zobler

Engineer: Wayne Holmes

Engineer [Assistant]: Chuck Orozco, Jeff Keese, Scott Peets

Production Manager: Conan Reynolds

Art Direction, Design: Jessica Novod

Creative Director: Gordon H Jee

Photography: Clay Patrick McBride


Dianne Reeves is one of the most charismatic and exciting live performers in modern jazz. In the Moment, recorded over two nights in front of an invited audience on a Los Angeles sound stage, is an effort to capture on disc the kind of magic that Ms. Reeves generates in her club and concert appearances. It is also arguably the most consistent and enjoyable recording of her career.

Ms. Reeves is the kind of musician who works more with the illusion of spontaneity rather than the real thing. The performances on this live CD have a polish and professionalism most singers can’t match even in a studio. Of course, most singers are not as extravagantly gifted as Ms. Reeves. Her powerful contralto is notable for both its clarity and the exactness of its pitch. The sheer beauty of that instrument is immediately apparent on the opening song, a radiant treatment of the hymn “Morning Has Broken.” Ms. Reeves uses her voice with care and defines and articulates her notes with an impressive precision. When she chooses to scat, her improvising is nothing less than astonishing. On an exciting “Love for Sale,” she fires through a series of notes with the speed and power of a machine gunner and the accuracy of a sharpshooter. Ms. Reeves’ rhythmic vocabulary is similarly impressive. She incorporates African rhythms (as on an explosive “Afro Blue”), Latin and Brazilian rhythms, and R&B grooves with equal facility. She is as comfortable with the tender intimacy of Milton Nascimento’s “Bridges,” performed as a duet with Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo, as she is with the driving intensity of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.” Ms. Reeves’ own songs, of which she has included five, are strongly autobiographical and reflect her positive, self-empowering outlook on life.

Over the last couple of years, Dianne Reeves has taken her work to a new level and In the Moment radiates with the joy and optimism of an artist at the peak of her powers. When, during “The First Five Chapters,” she sings, “Feeling healthy/Feeling fine/Feeling prosperous/So the whole world is mine,” you can’t help but believe her.

Mathew Bahl (All About Jazz)