Interview | Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival performer Integriti Reeves rises up singing (AUDIO)

Integriti Reeves and pianist Noble Jolley will perform at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival on Friday. Courtesy integritireeves.com

by Giovanni Russonello
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At this weekend’s Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, the point is to be immersed in “real jazz,” as Executive Director Paul Carr puts it – music that swings and knows its history. While the festival’s major acts include Jimmy Heath and Tim Warfield, plus D.C. greats Nasar Abadey and Allyn Johnson, Carr is also making a statement about the fate of “real jazz.” Namely, that it’s alive and thriving because so many younger musicians are getting behind it. To that end, Carr is bringing in a slew of high school jazz bands to perform and compete with each other. He’s also spotlighting some very auspicious, up-and-coming local talents.

This description fits snugly on the young vocalist Integriti Reeves. A 2010 alum of the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University and now a graduate student in Jazz Studies at Howard University, Reeves is enamored with the greats – Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. She shows it in her singing, which can inhabit a range of styles and attitudes but veers most clearly toward Billie. Reeves will perform on Friday night at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival, with a quartet featuring Noble and Nathan Jolley on piano and drums, respectively, and Eric Wheeler on bass.

“Goodbye,” by Integriti Reeves [audio:https://www.capitalbop.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/03-goodbye-take-22.mp3|titles=”Goodbye”|artists=Integriti Reeves]

The singer dipped out of class for a few moments on Tuesday to talk on the phone with CapitalBop. Reeves told us what motivates and inspires her, and gave a preview of Friday’s Ella-inspired performance. Here’s what she had to say.

CapitalBop: What is it about singing jazz that’s intriguing to you, that’s exciting?

Integriti Reeves: Well, I’m not an R&B singer, I’m not a gospel singer or a soul singer, but I knew I had something to say. So when I first heard jazz and it was more of a storytelling art, and you could really just sing the way you would talk, I felt like that was the art form for me. Because it fit my voice the best, and I just liked the honesty of the music and how so many experiences could be translated into a song. I didn’t get the same feeling from other genres.

CB: Who are some of the jazz singers that you like to listen to the most – whose forms of expression you really appreciate?

IR: Well, I listen to a lot of older jazz, and I think that’s kind of apparent when I’m singing. You know, I’m influenced by a lot of the classic singers – Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald. And the concert I’m doing on Friday is an Ella Fitzgerald tribute concert, so I listen to her a lot. And Billie Holiday – I admire her and her style. I can’t pinpoint one artist that I feel the strongest about, because I just love them all; they all have something so different to say. And I think it’s important to have a big lexicon of people that you listen to.

CB: What in particular do you love about Ella?

IR: I was actually just watching her biography the other night, and her expression of the music is just so unlike anyone else’s. She’s able to capture the lightness of it, the fun element of it … but also sing songs about love lost and still have it be as powerful. Because there are some singers who are better at singing only ballads or better at singing only up-tempo tunes, and I feel like she really was able to do [them all] well…. And, of course, her improvisation is unmatched. In my head, I think she’s the best vocal improviser that ever lived.

CB: So how are you going to pay tribute to her this weekend?

IR: All the songs that are on the program are songs that she recorded or made famous. I’m doing a transcription of her arrangement, her whole solo on a tune. And hopefully I’ll be able to put in elements that she would have used during those songs.… There’s one song in particular where every note that she sang I’m doing – that’s the last song on the program, … “Lady Be Good.” She does an in-head, and then she takes a thousand choruses and then comes back…. So I’m doing that whole arrangement.

CB: What are some of your ambitions as a jazz musician, especially one in D.C.? What would you see as an indication of some real, big success?

IR: I’m hoping to get an album together within the next year or two, and really start playing more. This will be my first jazz festival [where] I’m leading [a] band, so I would hope to do more of that. I’m just learning so much while I’m in school, so I’d like to play with a lot of different people and just try to gain some respect in the town – because there are just so many amazing musicians, it’s a hard field to get noticed in.

Integriti Reeves will perform with a quartet at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18. All-access passes to the festival are $225, and an individual ticket to Reeves’ show is $20.

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