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Dianne Reeves - Hear Her Calling
An MP3 Audio Interview
By Tj Orlando, FemaleMusician
(more articles from this author)
2001-06-18
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SA3 MP3 audio files will play on any MP3 player.

New to Dianne? For those of you who are, please read her bio and info here.

For those of you who are moderate fans, listening now and then-you must check out Dianne's latest CD "The Calling," which pays tribute to the late-female-jazz -vocal-icon, Sarah Vaughan. Check out her web site, it has a few excellent Real Audio song bites too!

And for those of you who are hard core, long time Dianne Reeves fans, you probably already have her latest cd The Calling, are aware of her winning the first grammy of her career this year, have already bookmarked her web site, knows she has been on tour (check dates here), and is currently performing with more style, grace and vocal elasticity than ever.

Brought to you by: John Tabacco: a Frank Zappoid producer, true friend, composer arranger and one hell of an audio engineer. Me: Female Musicianite, composer, crazy minded vocalist and lover of this universal unpredictable life. There we were, John Tabacco and I, catching the 12:20 pm train on the LIRR to Penn with laptops, cameras and other equipment stacked tightly in our knapsack and laptop carrying case. I sat twiddling through my bag, reading a press kit and awkwardly arranged my portable, blue, aiwa, cd player to play some of the Dianne Reeves cd's I brought for the journey. John sat anxious to use the SA3 MP3 technology he and, his blues brother, Bob Ball have had an ultimate squeeze on inventing. Not that this was a debut of the invention or anything, John just always gets a kick out of using his SA3 MP3 gadgets and things. We arrived at Penn and hailed a taxi to Dianne's upper west side hotel. We were about 15 minutes early. My bags literally fell out of the taxi followed by my body, I get clumsy when I seem a bit excited or nervous. John was just plain happy to be traveling this day, due to the warm temperature and sunshine. We were escorted to Dianne's room. Dianne greeted John and I with tender smiles and a warm heart. Her voice was lower than I expected, but highly rich with texture. She had just returned from Maine and was positively speaking about the lovely people who make up that part of the world. Dianne and I waited and talked small (she took a liking to that portable cd player and it's non skip feature) while John set up his laptop, making it ready to record. I began the interview, feeling this energy of nervousness behind me, and proceeded with uncertainty,like someone (JT) wanted to tell me something but was choosing not to. Turns out the energy field was John, making sure we had signal. Out of all days! This was the day our microphone wire decided to short out on us. Grumpily, John decided to pull the external mic and go with the internal mic from the laptop. I, as always, also had my trusty Sony cassette walkman recording, which I usually use for transcription .This day it served as proper backup, and in a circumstance like the one at hand, I was glad I brought it. I do wish that mic hadn't failed. But things could always be worse, like losing the entire interview audio, heaven forbid!

Hear the Interview: SA3 MP3 Audio # 1

[FM] We're here with Dianne Reeves on May 15th (2001). She graciously has welcomed us into her hotel room. We're speaking about, "maintaining and treating your voice carefully." So, thank you for spending some time here with us.

[Dianne] It's my pleasure, I'm glad to be here. Actually, the first thing that I would like to say is; people always talk about the eyes being the windows of the soul but voice really, really is. The voice is what gives the utterances of the soul, and the emotion, and all the things that your feeling. If your feeling shy, your voice will reveal that. If you are feeling fear, your voice will reveal that. If you are feeling happy and laughter, your voice will reveal that. That's a really important thing to know because, through laughter everything is lifted and high. So one thing for a young vocalist to remember, is that lilt that is in your voice when you laugh, is a kind of freedom . A freedom of the heart, a freedom of the soul and always remember that when your singing. One of the things, what we do as vocalists we use our voices all the time, we speak with them. Whispering is not good to do when we're out working. That's actually the worst thing you can do.But more than anything when you speak, it's important to keep your voice high as opposed to low (sad or tired). When your voice is lifted higher your mechanism is working in a natural kind of way.

Another thing that I would say, before you perform, it's all right to feel jitters,nervousness a little bit. The way that you combat that, because sometimes it comes out in your voice, is just to have a little something to eat, to settle your stomach before you go on stage. That's a really important thing. And then the other thing is, to take nice, strong, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, and breathe out of your mouth, about 10 of those. Just take your time and do that. Relax your shoulders and relax your whole upper torso. If your upper torso is very tight, that makes your voice constricted. The part of your body that can take all of that tightness, is your behind. So if you're standing up there feeling nervous, tighten your butt up, that's ok. Put one foot in front of the other and just kind of tighten your butt up.Your legs can take it, because your legs carry your body around all day long. But your shoulders need to be nice and loose. The neck needs to be nice and loose, and that will allow the breath, which is the most important and fundamental thing of singing, to flow freely.

[FM] Excellent. So you're really talking about body awareness here.

[Dianne] Absolutely, and when your on stage and feeling that the notes aren't coming out well, allow your shoulders to drop. Because nine times out of ten your shoulders are up. Sometimes we do it and we don't even know it. The other thing is to shake your head ' yes'. Because when you shake your head YES, you loosen up your jaw, and all of these other things that just need to be relaxed, so your voice can come through like you want it to.

Hear the Interview: SA3 MP3 Audio # 2

[FM] Were there people or trainers that inspired you?

[Dianne] Well, I had an opportunity at a young age to work with a brilliant teacher. The reason that I say brilliant, is that she was more classically oriented, but she could tell that my early choices were not to be a classical singer. While she taught me certain classical techniques,she also taught me how to respect my voice. She taught me to learn how to develop my own vocal exercises that would strengthen my voice, allow me the right placement so every night when I went for a certain note, it would be right there.

[FM] Great, so she focused in on you as a person, rather than just laying down a basic formula. And whom are we speaking of?

[Dianne] Oh,her name is Bennie Williams [mutual laughter]. Later on, I ended up working with a woman who was here in New York, who works with many people. Her name is Joan Lader, she was very responsible for helping Madonna when she did Evita. But this woman is extraordinary, because she works with everybody from opera singers to rock stars, broadway everything. The biggest thing that she teaches that you know your voice, how to support your voice, how to breath. There are basic fundamentals that you should learn.

[FM] Yes,very important. Breathing .

Hear the Interview: SA3 MP3 Audio # 3

[FM] You've created this wonderful tribute to Sarah Vaughan. Those who are jazz enthusiasts know that Sarah has made an impact on American jazz music, as a female artist. I saw the notes on your cd has really a great little background on her. In your own words, tell us how Sarah Vaughan has made an impact on your life.

[Dianne] , as a young person when I was about 14 and 15 years old. The tone of the music the popular music was, Motown Music,Sly and the Family Stone, The Beatles were around. Just all of this music.I had an uncle who really was a jazz enthusiast and thought I should learn about jazz music. He gave me several albums. I loved the singers, but when I heard Sarah, cause I was in a lot of different music classes and choirs, and different things like that, I really wanted to use my voice. And inside of me I didn't realize,I needed direction. I always believe the universe gives you what you want. And, here was this record of this woman, using her voice in the way, that I can understand. You know, I mean she was miles ahead of me. But I understood something about what she was doing; the tone, the pitch, the color, the freedom, the agility, the ability to soar and really use your voice as the true instrument that it is, and that was very appealing in the midst of everything.

[FM] Did that cross you over to having a jazz ear, with those records at the time?

[Dianne] Well, what it did was, it made me listen to all vocalists in a totally different way. At that point, my focus wasn't really on the words that they were singing, but the sound of their voices. Even when I would listen to horn players, it was the sound. How do they make that sound? If there was a sound that was appealing to me, then I would try to mimic it. And I looked at collecting those sounds and colors like a coloring book. I looked at them as a palette, but it was through her that I started to listen to voices in a different way.

[FM] So, it was the focus on the tone.

[Dianne] Yes. Tone.

[FM] This year marks your first year of receiving a Grammy. Congratulations.

[Dianne] Thank You

[FM] How do you feel towards that?

[Dianne] You know, it feels really, really great. But it would have felt really, really, great without it. I mean I'm thankful to have it. I've been nominated five times, and it's nice to know your friends and the people out there have been watching you, they feel like you deserve something, an award, and that's more of who I am thankful for too. But, the biggest thing is that you know it inspires you a little bit more to keep going.

Hear the Interview: SA3 MP3 Audio # 4

[FM] Do you still seek creative ways to improve your tone and sound?

[Dianne] Oh, absolutely. As long is there is a world to experience life, there are things to experience. And I really,really believe that the whole experience of voice and being able to paint pictures and have people understand your views, have a lot to do with how you're living your life. To me it's an artist kind of duty to deeply express with dimension the things that they feel and see through their art. Whether it be dance, painting, singing, what have you, it's very important to be in touch with that. So as long as you're living and as long as things are out there, you can't tire.

Hear the Interview: SA3 MP3 Audio # 5

[FM] Regarding the business end of things. Can you share with us what you have a hold on regarding your business and how important that is for you to understand in your career?

[Dianne] I will say, that in my organization, I am the Queen Bee. It took a long time for me to even come to that understanding. Some artists it takes less. For me it took a longer time, because for a long time thought with my creative mind. But I still respect that part of me and my business mind. One thing that I love is, the people that are surrounding me and that are a part of what I do, are people of like mind and conscious, and people that really, really love their jobs. So that's really important. The other side of it, is that I know what's going on. I feel in this business, if you are going to be adult about it, you can't be afraid to have your face broken. The more you face the truth about things, the better you are at dealing with it. I also find that even dealing with my musicians, I have an open door policy. The people that I have delegated things to,and if they are not really getting to the heart of the matter, then they can come to me and it's not a problem. I mean, I know where my money is. I know what my contract reads like. I know the amount of records I have to sell to recoup. You know, all of these things you just have to be on top of, but at the same time, you're out there and you want to be an artist and be free to express yourself. So it's taken me a long time, but I have a team of people that work with me that I trust very much.

[FM] I feel that's very important. These are the messages that we are trying to convey, maybe through your experiences, to the younger artists, so maybe they can avoid some heartache.

[Dianne] The thing is, when you don't know, find out. If you are feel uneasy or pressured into doing something, the nest thing is to stand still and not to do anything at that point, no matter if people are telling you you're going to miss out or whatever.To have a good lawyer that you feel confident in, that speaks to you and helps your understand outside the legal language. You should go learn the legal language, but at the same time deal with someone who doesn't have a problem hearing continuously-no break that down, what does that mean/-exactly what does that mean- Make an intelligent decision. You can make a right one or a wrong one,but make an intelligent one, that's the most important thing.

[FM] Overall, the music business has actually been a positive experience for you?

[Dianne] It's been a positive experience for me. A long time ago, my musical mentor, Phil Moore, told me you need to decide what success is for you, and then go for that. I think that's with everybody, you can get lost in other peoples dreams for you. You know, you have to know what it is specifically what you want. I feel it's been very,very good. I have total artistic freedom, I live well, and I'm touring all over the world and really meeting interesting people and enjoying my life.


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