Soulful jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves will appear at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) this Sunday, July 17. We couldn’t be more excited to hear her exquisite voice as she performs classics, as well as songs off her most recent album Beautiful Life. Reeves discusses her love of collaborating with other musicians and reveals where she finds inspiration.
What do you love most about jazz?
It’s a genre of music that really celebrates the uniqueness of a person. You must develop, refine and define your own voice. Whoever you listen to, however you’ve come to the music, whomever you’re influenced by—at the end of the day, it’s about how you say what it is you have to say.
What do you most hope for when people listen to your music?
That they feel it. That they go away not thinking of my voice as an instrument, but about what I’m saying and how I make them feel.
The great George Duke was your cousin. Can you talk about his influence on your music?
The thing I loved about George was how multi-faceted he was. First of all, he was an impeccable musician. At the same time he had this very strong collaborative spirit. It was the greatest thing to watch him do that, and for me to be in an environment like that really helped me to grow and have a broader color palette.
You sing with such intention, passion and soul. Where does your inspiration come from?
From life. Just living. One thing I’ve found in music is that the lyrics are extremely important, but also the melody and harmonies can really influence emotion. All these kinds of things play a part in the delivery of the song.
How do you choose the songs you perform?
I pick songs that I can feel, that I can sink my teeth into. Ones I can really interpret and that have a story behind them, even though the listener may not know what it is, they know that there’s realness behind the song.
You said once, “At its essence, life is beautiful, and I wanted to celebrate that which is too often overlooked.” This is evident in the music on Beautiful Life. What have you learned about life, music, resilience and overcoming difficult times?
Challenges make you strong. When you’re confronted with a challenge, push through as hard as you can. You deal with emotions. You feel the emotions. Find a lesson in your current situation. The joys of life are to be treasured because they’ll help you in those hard times. I’ve learned that miracles happen every single day, and that just being alive is a blessing. I believe challenges are the groundwork for wisdom.
In 2015, you won a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for Beautiful Life. How did the album come to be?
Collaboration. There are a lot of young musicians on my record that I was so inspired to work with. In their music, they recalled a period and a time in which I lived. They listened to the music [of that time], and the music was a part of them. It was an inter-generational experience.
What are you looking forward to about performing at WHBPAC?
Making new friends—I always like that and what I love about my band is that we respond to each other in the moment. We invite the audience to be a part of that. I’m excited because there’s always something new that comes out of the experience. I’m excited to be there.
Dianne Reeves performs at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, 76 Main Street, Westhampton, on July 17 at 8 p.m. For more info visit whbpac.org or call 631-288-1500