Earlier this year, Dianne Reeves won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, for “In the Moment: Live in Concert” (Blue Note). The Denver native, who was rasied on the sounds of soul singers like Stevie Wonder and the O’Jays, said that winning the Grammy had more of an impact on her family than on herself.
“It’s nice to receive the Grammy, but the impact on my family was much greater than I could ever imagine,” said Reeves in a phone interview earlier this summer. “People really view it as like people recognizing you who you are. My family has always been in my corner, but I didn’t know that they wanted that for me so badly.”
As noted above, there are several sides to Reeves’s artistry – the traditionalism that led her to record “The Calling: Celebrating Sarah Vaughan” (Blue Note), a tribute to the legendary jazz singer, and the side evidenced on the aptly-titled “Bridges,” her 1999 album that featured jazzy versions of songs by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Peter Gabriel, and popular-style original compositions like “I Remember” played by such top-shelf instrumentalists as pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Brian Blade and saxophonist Kenny Garrett.
For Reeves – who performs on Sunday at 3 on the Main Stage of the Berkshire Jazz Festival at Butternut Basin in Great Barrington -- it’s all of a piece.
“It all seems the same to me,” she said. “When you go to Japan, you try to get with how the people are in Japan. Every song has its own, different kind of landscape.
“A lot of times the ideas I have for arranging have to do with the lyrics. You approach the song from a lyrical standpoint, try to build your idea of what you’re trying to say in the song through the music.
“The Sarah Vaughan record is a lot more traditional, but there’s an edge there as well, all kinds of textures to expand and explore. When I do the Sarah Vaughan music and the ‘Bridges’ music in the same concert, it’s pretty seamless.”
Reeves, who was hired to sing in Clark Terry’s big band when she was still in high school, said recording a tribute to Sarah Vaughan was an obvious move for her. “She was the voice,” said Reeves. “It had a very broad range and so much color. And she understood her instrument very well and used it in a way that you got the fullness of it.
“I couldn’t believe you could do all those big and subtle things with the voice, in a phrase. Her harmonic understanding was very broad, and the fact was that she liked all kinds of music.”
“The Calling” includes renditions of such Vaughan trademarks as “Lullaby of Birdland,” “Speak Low,” “Embraceable You” and “Send in the Clowns.”
Reeves’s band for the weekend will include pianist Otmar Ruiz, drummer Mark Simmons, bassist Reginald Veal and percussionist Monyungo Jackson.
What do cowboys do during those interminable hours out on the range, when there is no one to talk to and nothing to look at but miles and miles of sky.
Some, apparently, make up stories, songs and poems, or so buckaroo poet Waddie Mitchell and minstrel of the range Don Edwards would have us believe.
Cowboys are apparently hip of the moment. On her current concert tour, fashion trendsetter Madonna and her corps of dancers and musicians dress as ranch hands for several numbers, and the Material Girl even rides a bucking bronco.
So it should come as little surprise that the Bard and the Balladeer, as Mitchell and Edwards are known respectively, will be joined by Tom Perini, author of “Texas Cowboy Cooking,” in a presentation at Mass MoCA (662-2111) – that bastion of all that is hip and trendy in contemporary culture -- tonight at 7.
“Twenty-five years as a working cowboy on some of the most desolate spreads in Nevada will give a man time to think,” Mitchell has been quoted as saying by way of explanation of how he came by cowboy poetry.
“With all that time on their hands, it was natural that cowboys would perfect the
art of spinning tales in rhyme and meter. When you live in close proximity like that with the same folks month after month, one of your duties is to entertain each other, and I suppose that’s where the whole tradition of cowboy poetry started.”
Mitchell claims to have begun reciting his own poetry by age 10; by age 16, he quit school where he lived in rural Nevada to begin working as a cowboy. For many years, he simultaneously managed a ranch by day and worked the cowboy poetry circuit by night.
In the mid-1980s, Mitchell gained international popularity for his performances, and he put his day job behind him in order to be free to appear on the concert circuit and on TV shows including “The Tonight Show,” “Larry King Live,” “Good Morning America.” He has released a series of recodings for the Warner Western label, as well as “Waddie Mitchell Live” for the Western Jubilee Recording Company, which features Don Edwards, with whom he has been performing since 1984.
An author, historian and musicologist, Edwards is a show-business savvy son of a vaudeville magician who began working as an actor in 1961 and made his first recording as a singer/guitarist in 1964. He also recvrods for Warner Western, and he played the role of Smokey in Robert Redford’s film, “The Horse Whisperer.” Tom Perini, owner of the world-famous Perini Ranch Steakhouse, will discuss the history and lore of chuckwagon cooking, including the secrets to cooking the perfect steak.
Spookie Daly Pride
The members of Spookie Daly Pride – which performs tonight at 9 at Club Helsinki in Great Barrington (528-3394) -- bring an eclectic array of experiences to the band, which comes out in the group’s dizzying, nearly psychedelic mix of songs on its upcoming album, “Marshmallow Pie” (Karass), from the U2-like soul-rock ballad, “Holy Rubbertramps” to the Tom Waits-ish “Birthday Song,” to the Monty Python-like “Big Car,” to the ska-powered “Splash (In the Nighttime)” to the Crash Test Dummies-like pop-funk of “Karma Thunderbolt.”
Guitarist Adam Steinberg recorded with the Dixie Chicks and appeared on the PBS series “Sessions at W. 54th St.” with the group and Sheryl Crow. Drummer Tommy Diehl was a member of Acoustic Junction. Spookie Daly himself is a bit of a mystery, but the rapper/singer was a charismatic performer at last summer’s BerkFest, and rumor has it that he was named after his grandfather, Spookaliscious.
The group has warmed up for audiences for Foo Fighters, Kid Rock, Prims, Busta Rhymes, Soul Coughing, Cherry Poppin’ Dadies, Acoustic Junction and Leftover Salmon. Several of its songs have been used on TV shows, including “Big Car,” which was the lead track for the MTV Sports and Music Festival and “Birthday Song,” which was featured on the ESPN-2 series “X-Games Today.”
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