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Breaking Boundaries

Vocalist Dianne Reeves transcends the boundaries of jazz

It has won her acclaim — she was voted the Female Singer of the Year in the 2001 Jazz Journalists Awards — and some complaints — some purists think her great gifts should be dedicated solely to the jazz canon.

It doesn't bother Reeves. "The thing that I love about this music is the ability to find your own individual voice."

The singer started her solo career in the mid-'80s, after touring with Brazilian bandleader Sergio Mendez. She quickly built a following, significantly among established musicians. "I didn't have people telling me what I couldn't do," she recalls. "Instead I got encouragement from great players like Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie." One early supporter, trumpeter Clark Terry, met her when she was in college and has continued to work with her frequently, including a guest appearance on "The Calling."

With a recent appointment as the creative chair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Reeves is returning the favor to a new generation of musicians. "I focus on positivity," she says. "I want to promote new voices, offer them a platform. It's a huge pie, and there is a piece for everyone."

In addition, she has a heavy touring schedule; her appearance at the Modlin Center is one of nearly 50 performances she has scheduled for the next six months. Her quartet includes the innovative New Orleans pianist Peter Martin, Reuben Rogers on bass and longtime Reeves associate Munyungo Jackson on percussion.

To Reeves, live performance is essential. "Jazz is such a unique expression; the music is very much in the moment," she says. "The magic that happens between the musicians and myself depends on the reaction of the audience. It is a very interactive kind of show." — Peter McElhinney

Jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves performs at Camp Concert Hall at the University of Richmond Sept. 18, 7:30 pm. Tickets cost $14-$28. Call 289-8980.

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