Dianne Reeves is a five-time Grammy-winning artist playing to grateful audiences all over the world.
She’s received honorary doctorates from Berklee College and Juilliard and was named an NEA Jazz Master, the higher honour for a jazz musician in the United States.
After going a couple of years without performing, Reeves is back on the road and will be taking the stage at Koerner Hall this Saturday evening.
Reeves joined us for a conversation about what makes a good musical relationship, her dedication to spontaneity, and more.
You’ve been off for a couple of years. You’re such a live performer — how does it feel to get back onto the stage.
It really feels wonderful. I’ve been out here in Los Angeles, at SFJAZZ, and we’re just starting to veer off. It feels good with my band and we’re so excited to come there and perform.
You’ve had some wonderful working relationships over the years with Billy Childs, Romero Lubambo, Reginald Veal and others. What makes a successful musical relationship for you?
Just that we respect each other, we love the music that we’re doing together, and that every night we’ve all agreed that we’ll go out and give 100 per cent.
When you began, you were inspired and mentored by artists that came before you. There’s been a tradition of mentorship in the world of jazz. I’ve read some social media posts you’ve made for Cécile McLorin Salvant and Somi, for example. Is that idea of mentorship and the idea of “living schools” still happening in your jazz world?
It’s very much alive. That’s how I came through. Absolutely, it’s a community. Musicians are there for one another to help people. You talk to any of these young musicians, and they’ll tell you about the people that have mentored them along the way.
You’ve spoken about a certain sense of musical spontaneity that you and your bandmates have on stage. You’ll start a tune and all of a sudden a groove will take place, and it’ll be something unique that you didn’t hear before. How easily are you able to look at those moments and say, “That happened, now let’s see what happens tomorrow night.” Or do you find yourself feeling something on stage and going, “Let’s try that again tomorrow”?
No, this music is living music. While you might have the same conversation, you say it in a different way every time you speak. It might be the same idea, but it’s presented in a different way. I’m really open to that moment. I love that. I love being able to jump off. What happens is you see that there are limitless possibilities, and I feel comfortable with that.
What can people expect from your live show these days?
Oh, we have so much music. There will be things that you’ve heard before and there will be a lot of new stuff. I’ve been working very hard with my guitarist Romero Lubambo to [incorporate] Brazilian music. We have all kinds of stuff. It’s going to be a full and rich night.
I know you’re a big foodie. Have you done any research on the Toronto restaurants you’ll want to try? Will you even have time?
We’re going to be there for a minute, so this time I won’t be able to. But you know, I have to say that [since] 2020 when people were off and had a lot of time to think, one of the biggest things that came to me was that I wanted to be able to keep my life in balance — meaning I’d have time to smell the roses — so what I don’t get to do now, I’ll just come up to Toronto and visit and do it. That’s my plan.
This interview has been edited and condensed.