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Dianne Reeves and Terence Blanchard at the Orange County Performing Arts Center

Jim Santella By

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Founders Hall
Orange County Performing Arts Center
Costa Mesa, California
May 7, 2005

Two leading voices in mainstream jazz turned up last weekend at Founders Hall to delight a packed house with emotions soaring and to communicate with their audience as up-close and personal as the folks who live next door. You'd think that they'd just dropped in to bring you a plate of homemade cookies and to chat for awhile over coffee. Dianne Reeves and Terence Blanchard have that kind of personal effect with an audience. Both enjoy sharing, and both find it intuitively simple to share a musical conversation with you.

Reeves opened the program with two numbers dedicated to Sarah Vaughan. Her vocalese and her lyric interpretation brought out the goose bumps, as she created the image of an instrumental program with her voice, floated lyrical melodies around the room passionately, and conversed with her trio intensely. Pianist Peter Martin, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson formed a cohesive unit that propelled each piece forcefully and seamlessly. They seemed to anticipate her every move, and the eye contact that they made with each other served to keep everything in place throughout the extended set. Unlike most recordings and some ordinary concert performances, Reeves and her trio launched into extensive adventures that continued at length until there simply wasn't anything else possible to add.

Blanchard, too, drove his featured numbers for extended periods that enabled him to absorb every nuance and to express each thought completely. As he joined Reeves and the trio for "Embraceable You" with a portable microphone attached to the bell of his trumpet, he moved left and right, up and down, and across the stage as the music moved him. Both Reeves and Blanchard, of course, know full well how to work a microphone to its fullest creative capacity, but this clip-on model allowed him the kind of complete freedom that was needed for his sensitive interpretations. Blanchard and Reeves meshed together naturally with a genuine friendship and superbly compatible musical skills.

The trumpeter performed his own "Bounce" and Ivan Lins' "Nocturna" with the trio. Both his New Orleans swing affair and the quartet's sensual Brazilian ballad interpretation highlighted the trumpeter's career in mainstream jazz and film composing. He creates impressions that stand alone to evoke a specific image suitable for framing. Cutting room floors may be filled with rejected film clips, but Blanchard's emotional music places high regard for each and every note.

As Reeves and Blanchard closed the program with vocalese, lyrics, a sincere farewell message, and a lively Bo Diddley beat, they reminded us that like-minded artists can share the joy with each other as well as they do with their audience. Everyone benefits.


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