The “Jazz Divas Summit” was an evening of jazz,
female talent and most prominently, celebration. It honored the
birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the reopening of Hill
Auditorium and the 125th anniversary of the University Musical
Society. Perhaps the most celebrated event of the evening was the
meeting of instrumentation and voice with three prominent jazz
artists, Diane Reeves, Regina Carter and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Each
artist’s style and distinct approach to jazz kept the
three-hour concert entertaining to the last note.

Janna Hutz
Jazz vocalist Diane Reeves. (Courtesy of UMS)

The first performer, Diane Reeves, made her way to the center of
her instrumental trio, gently singing, “Hold me close,
I’ll love you till the blue bells forget to bloom.”
Reeves’ voice was mellow but it steadily gained power while
smooth jazz emanated from the band behind her. She demonstrated
great musical strength and versatility in her songs. Her trio
harmonized creatively and flawlessly while maintaining their
distinctive roles within the group.

Next to hit the stage was the innovative and world- renowned
jazz violinist Regina Carter. Her career has been described as a
“crescendo of success,” and her talent was obvious on
stage. Carter and her group began their segment of the show with
nature calls. An African drumbeat emerged from upstage while chimes
created the effect of squealing birds. Amid the chaos, she strung
high-pitched chords on her violin, and to the audience all other
sounds were seemingly drowned out. When the mayhem stopped, she
began a steady jazz song.

Throughout Carter’s performance, there was a consistent
backdrop of jazz, even while classical music was at the forefront.
At times she played classical violin music and then softly and
smoothly switched to a staccato jazz. The result was a creative
fusion of culture and sound.

The last performer of the night was the pre-eminent vocalist and
so called “ambassador for jazz,” Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Her first note personified her character as an artist — big,
playful and captivating. Bridgewater stunned the audience with her
brilliant scat, while the interplay between group members in her
trio was balanced and effective.

The concert offered a wonderful culmination to the event that
proved significant not only to the University but the nation as a
whole. Not only did it bring together legendary jazz artists, it
also brought together a very diverse and positive audience. It was
an evening of music and celebration and a treat for all who
attended.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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