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Inspired by Brazilian music, jazz great Dianne Reeves hits Sheldon stage Thursday

Dianne Reeves said her time off during the pandemic has left her more excited about collaborating with other musicians.
Dianne Reeves said her time off during the pandemic has left her more excited about collaborating with other musicians.

Five-time Grammy-winning vocalist Dianne Reeves regularly crosses musical boundaries, interpreting tunes from the Great American Songbook, contemporary pop and Brazilian music.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Reeves took her longest-ever break from the stage. She emerged with a renewed desire to collaborate with musicians from different musical backgrounds.

Reeves and her band perform Thursday at the Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Jeremy D. Goodwin asked Reeves how the pandemic affected her approach to performing.

Jeremy D. Goodwin: Do you have a different view of your work now, after staying away for so much of the pandemic?

Dianne Reeves: It’s given me another kind of clarity on what I want to do and how I want to present it.

At first I thought: This is crazy, I’m not working. But it actually was good for me to not work for a minute.

Goodwin: To just catch your breath?

Reeves: Well, I’ve been out here for 45 years nonstop, basically.

Goodwin: Do you come back to the music with a refreshed outlook?

Reeves: I think so. There’s a peacefulness now that I’ve gotten over the pandemic — a peacefulness and an understanding of, just, grace for myself and the people around me. And the music just came out in a totally different way. I’m really, really enjoying what I’ve become and how I’ve emerged out of the pandemic.

Now I’ve been doing all sorts of projects with other people. I did a tour, and it will continue on, with the great Chucho Valdés. So I’ve been collaborating with different people. I have my own band, I have a Brazilian band now. Two bands. I just love it.

Goodwin: What does that present to you as an artist, to change it up like that?

Reeves: It’s not change for me. It’s all music.

People who listen to my music know that my music is very, very broad. So I think that they should expect that from me. It’s just what I do, and now I’m more focused on that. I can go out [and play] with my guitarist who’s from Brazil, I can go out with Chucho Valdés and do duets with him and Joe Lovano. It’s been really magical.

Goodwin: What songs are on your mind lately? What’s speaking to you? What do you think you may bring out on the road?

Reeves: The repertoires are different with the different configurations. When I’m out with Chucho, it’s a totally different way of singing.

People will hear things, especially when I come to the Sheldon, that they are familiar with. In this particular show there will be some of the beautiful, reimagined standards, and Brazilian music.

Goodwin: You debuted an ensemble dedicated to Brazilian music in 2019, featuring guitarist Romero Lubambo. Did anything in particular spark a renewed interest in exploring that music?

Reeves: I don’t think I have done a record that does not have a nod to Brazil. It’s been in almost every record I’ve recorded. It’s just a lifetime interest and connection.

Goodwin: I get the sense that the learning never stops for you.

Reeves: We live in this huge world, where there’s just so much to learn about. I want to just learn more, do more, see more, experience more, sing more. That keeps me going forward.

Goodwin: As you look to the immediate future right now, you sound pretty optimistic.

Reeves: Oh, I’m obvious. I’m out here. I’m excited to be back out in it, doing it, listening to it, sharing with my musicians. I was just in Miami, and I got a chance after the show to go see other music. It was just nice. So I’m just enjoying all of it. And I’m inspired.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.