Dianne Reeves, "Beautiful Life" (Concord)
On her first studio album in five years, four-time Grammy winner Dianne Reeves comes back strong with a genre-crossing collection of 12 love-themed songs on which she infuses her impressive jazz stylings with a healthy dose of soul.
Reeves gets a major assist from producer Terri Lyne Carrington, who skillfully mixes and matches several dozen musicians -- including rising stars Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper and Gregory Porter -- to provide a distinctive multilayered backdrop with a rich palette of instrumental colors for each track.
The singer puts her own stamp on an eclectic selection of covers. These include a sultry version of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You," with Sean Jones adding simmering trumpet lines; a neo-soul take on Fleetwood Mac's soft-rock classic "Dreams," arranged by pianist Glasper; and a shimmering vocal duet with Lalah Hathaway on Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain." The only traditional standard is "Stormy Weather," which Reeves floats through in an extended 8-minute version, colorfully stretching the lyrics.
The new songs by Reeves and her session mates include the joyful "Feels So Good (Lifted)," embellished by a synth solo from Reeves' cousin George Duke, who died last year; Carrington's soulful "Satiated (Been Waiting)," with Reeves engaging in a seductive vocal duet with Porter; and the smoothly flowing "Wild Rose," featuring its composer Spalding on bass and background vocals.
Reeves best displays her virtuosity on her wordless, Latin-beat composition "Tango," with Raul Midon vocally imitating a trumpet, on which she improvises scat vocals, suddenly shifts tempos and makes full use of her impressive multi-octave range.