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The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan is Dianne Reeves’ grandest project yet. It also is one closest to heart as she pays tribute to one of her primary vocal influences. Having listened to Sarah Vaughan for most of her life, and having met Vaughan without recognizing her in 1975 during Cannonball Adderley’s memorial service, Reeves, after eleven albums, finally has the confidence to tackle some of Vaughan’s best-known tunes as she ignores the inevitable comparisons.
As demanded by the scale of the album, Reeves for the first time is backed by a studio orchestra. Not just any orchestra, though. But one consisting of 42 musicians led by Billy Childs and Patrick Gandy. Surrounded by said orchestra is Reeves’ rhythm section of Mulgrew Miller, Reginald Veal and Gregory Hutchinson.
Intending to cover the scope of Vaughan’s career, Reeves and orchestra include her famous “If You Could See Me Now” by Tadd Dameron and run through the decades to Dori Caymmi’s “Obsession” from 1987, one of Vaughan’s final recordings. Of course, the album includes Vaughan’s equally famous version of “Send In The Clowns,” which is especially appropriate for the orchestra’s lushness, dynamics and musical drama.
While it wasn’t obvious until it was pointed out by the theme of The Calling, Reeves’ range and colors do recall Vaughan’s, even as Reeves has developed a distinctive voice that’s instantly recognizable. On Reeves’ and Child’s tune honoring Vaughan’s influence upon a generation of singers, “I Remember Sarah,” Reeves adopts the Vaughan persona, combining Vaughan’s implicit wordless swing and her identifying intervals with Reeves’ favored approach of singing recollections. On the other hand, Reeves sounds like none other than Reeves on Childs’ arrangement of “Fascinating Rhythm,” her intro more like “Afro Blue’s” from her last album, In The Moment: Live In Concert, than Vaughan’s.
The album’s producers went to great lengths to include Clark Terry’s, Reeves’ discoverer’s, responses to Reeves’ calls, not to mention his trumpet solo, on “I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Til You.” Reeves recorded the tune with the orchestra in Burbank and sent the tape to Terry in New York, where he recorded the balance of the tune.
Reeves has grown, and actually blossomed, throughout her career to this point, where she, along with other outstanding singers of her generation, are continuing the tradition of jazz singing for the current generation. The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan symbolizes that passing of the torch.
Track Listing: Lullaby Of Birdland, Send In The Clowns, Speak Low, Obsession, If You Could See Me Now, I Remember Sarah, Key Largo, I Hadn
Personnel: Dianne Reeves, vocals; Billy Childs, Mulgrew Miller, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Greg Hutchinson, drums; Clark Terry, trumpet; Steve Wilson, alto & soprano sax; Romero Lubambo, Russell Malone, guitar; Munyungo Jackson, percussion; orchestra conducted by Billy Childs and Patrick Gandy