Pick Yourself Up
For a singer, the most devastating injury is one to the vocal chords. For a versatile vocalist whose repertoire includes opera and Broadway, such an injury is career threatening. Yet these are the issues that faced Deanna Reuben back in 2003. Peripheral damage from surgery meant that her decorated career as a soloist and as a member of such ensembles as the Paul Hill Chorale and the prestigious Washington Singers was effectively over. Up to that point, Reuben had shared the stage with artists such as Marvin Hamlisch, Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, and performed in venues such as The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, the Mann Center and Wolf Trap.
Deanna Reuben fell in love with music at the age of seven, when she began taking piano lessons. Reuben, who was named after vocalist and Judy Garland contemporary Deanna Durbin, found singing at the age of fourteen, and never had a second thought about what she wanted to do with her life. Her career as a singer has run the gamut from Broadway to madrigals to opera, but Reuben’s versatility has been a key to her success. Aside from her vocal talents, Reuben is an accomplished pianist, composer, arranger and teacher. So when tragedy struck, Reuben changed directions
Dust Yourself Off
Deanna Reuben returned home to Wyomissing, Pennsylvania to be closer to her family, and in the process remade herself as a performer. A long-time fan of the great American songbook, Reuben began to find her new voice amongst ballads from the golden era of Broadway and from such composers are Harold Arlen, Arthur Schwartz and Michel Legrand. Reuben was able to translate the conversational style of operatic recitatives to the jazz and Broadway standards that became her new forte, developing a distinctive and highly emotive style. Reuben doesn’t so much sing to a crowd as engage in a musical dialogue with a voice that’s been compared to Barbra Streisand, Diana Krall and Astrud Gilberto.
Start All Over Again
In 2005, Reuben released her debut album, The Look Of Love, celebrating with a performance at Gerald Veasley’s Jazz Base. Critical acclaim and national airplay would follow, and encouraged Reuben to stay the course. By 2008, she began making her own contributions to the great American songbook, composing two haunting ballads with R. Martin Mellinger. “Here In the Night” and “How Do You Measure Love” both appear on Reuben’s sophomore album, On Life And Love.
Reuben has shown an ability to combine the lyricism of Puccini with the panache of a stage performer and a personality and vulnerability that are innate, creating a near-perfect musical conduit for personal connections with her audience. Reuben’s third album, The Very Thought Of You, promises great things. With a backing band who have collectively played with such artists as Woody Herman, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, Pat Martino and Phil Woods, among others, and Reuben’s tremendous sense of style and vocal talent, it is hard to imagine Deanna Reuben not making the jump to nationally known recording artist.
There are vocalists in the history of the Great American Songbook who have become iconic through talent, time and a plethora of recordings. These are the singers who have become a part of our national artistic conscience. Barbra Streisand. Frank Sinatra. Mel Tormé. Bing Crosby. Tony Bennett. There are others, but the important nexus between them all is their ability to interpret and convey songs with an authenticity and heart that is real. Deanna Reuben possesses this quality. She also has an incredibly lyric voice and a warmth of tone that combine to create an earthy beauty that is compelling. It is that sense of personal veracity, however, that touches an audience, whether from the stage or through a set of speakers. Reuben still feels the exhilaration of performing after thirty years on stage, and that enthusiasm shines through her performances.
Jazz and pop standards continually draw new performers, from unknowns singing in their living rooms to established pop and rock stars looking to return to their roots. For such an established genre there is no end of fresh approaches, yet the freshest approach these days involves getting in touch with the roots of the music. Reuben understands where the music came from, and where it’s going.
Deanna Reuben may not be a household name. Yet.
But she is one of the finest interpreters of the Great American Songbook working today.