First Lady of Jazz to thrill Joburg

2011-07-29 13:23

Fresh from her Sing the Truth! world tour that celebrated the works of Miriam Makeba, elegant jazz songbird Dianne Reeves lands in Joburg this week to perform for two nights only at the Teatro in Montecasino, Fourways.

She will be accompanied by her full band, which will bring her well-known songs to life. These include her famous ode to her grandmother, Better Days, as well as Love For Sale and Afro Blue.

Reeves boasts an impressive contralto. She recently performed at the White House with Herbie Hancock. She explains that after having performed for other US presidents in the past, “it was pretty amazing to sing for the first African-American president”.

In a transatlantic telephone conversation, and having just dropped her bags from her punishing world tour schedule, Reeves (54) tells me that she met Makeba in the 1980s when the cast of Sarafina held an evening in Makeba’s honour at the Radio City Music Hall in New York.

“I loved her courage, voice and spirit. Here I was, a musician she hardly knew, but she was willing to sit and chat with me for hours. She was very beautiful and open,” she says from her home in Denver, Colorado.

She and Makeba toured with Harry Belafonte in the 1980s.

Reeves says Makeba’s legacy is in safe hands with musicians like Angélique Kidjo, who sang Makeba classics on the tour. Reeves sang Abbey Lincoln’s music while Lizz Wright tackled Odetta’s songbook.

“I found there was a kindred spirit that bound these great female singers together,” she says.

For the Teatro show, she will sing her more familiar material, along with new material.

“People come expecting one thing and leave surprised. I am a storyteller and I improvise a lot on stage. I aim to create a joyful experience, something to dance to, something really special. I know that I have a solid following in South Africa.”

Reeves was in South Africa to perform at the Joy of Jazz festival in 2006, where she says she spoke to people backstage for two to three hours after her show. She sees this week’s trip as a homecoming of sorts.

Reeves is delighted to be visiting South Africa in the midst of Women’s Month and looks forward to celebrating with the sisterhood and performing songs that have been written by great women.

She has enjoyed a colourful career, which includes milestones such as winning four best vocal jazz performance Grammys, and still holds the record for winning three consecutive Grammys.

She recorded the soundtrack to and featured in scenes of the George Clooney film Good Night, and Good Luck, which was nominated for six Oscars in 2006.

» Reeves performs at the Teatro on Thursday and Friday from 8pm

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