Picks and Pans Review: Never Too Far

updated 04/09/1990 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/09/1990 01:00AM

Dianne Reeves

This diva from the jazz world makes the most of a very mixed bag of material on her fourth and perhaps most adventurous I recording. Reeves's elegant, earthy contralto, spanning a 3 Vi octave range, sails, I swoops and soars over offerings as diverse as the polyrhythmic West African chant-inspired "Bring Me Joy" and the soul-searching Rickie Lee Jones ballad "Company."

George Duke, who produced this and her previous album, co-wrote and plays keyboard on some of the tracks. Among them is the message-rife "How Long," on which Reeves cries plaintively, I "Where, where is my daughter/She has not come home from school/Knock, 10 after midnight/Policeman brings the tragic news."

There are a couple of sour notes, like the opening track "Hello (Haven't I Seen You Before)," in which Reeves's naturally melodious instincts seem crimped by the song's disco-derived pyrotechnics. Members of the vocal group Take Six wrote the song and deliver some snappy background work.

Reeves's creamy, jazz-inflected style shines through on the title cut. She roams and explores, growls and catches at notes and phrasings. It is this audacity that makes Reeves's voice an awesome instrument.

Stanley Clark's haunting bass lines, coupled with the singer's sensuous scat, help make "We Belong Together" one of the stronger songs. With it, Reeves displays some of the intricate vocal layers she acquired over the years as one-time lead singer with Sergio Mendes.

While this latest effort showcases

Reeves's versatility, it also leaves you wondering if perhaps she hasn't wandered, despite the title, a little too far from her jazz roots. In any case, her talent is big enough to carry the diffusiveness of these selections, for the most part with impressive aplomb. (EMI, Capitol)

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