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A Sure Bet

Diane Schuur Diane Schuur
It was another night just like every other in Las Vegas, with the casinos and bars full of desperate gamblers looking for that sure thing. Well, there was one difference; though most of the city's gaming rooms were filled with players fruitlessly throwing good money after bad in that hapless quest, the jazz fans that filled the Railhead Saloon in the Boulder Station hotel had better luck indeed, drawing the talented singer, pianist and raconteur Diane Schuur. Black may come up when you are betting red, your team might blow the spread, but Diane Schuur always seems to deliver an entertaining set of classic songs, fine musicianship and bawdy commentary.

It was apparent as early on as the opening number "Deedles' Blues" that Schuur's voice was in particularly good form. She fared well instrumentally also, playing some nice bluesy lines on the piano. For the next number, the Gershwins' "The Man I Love," she effectively intimated a string section on synthesizer and added a nice flourish on the piano following her reading of the lyric.

Schuur's set mixed such tried-and-true standards as "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" alongside more contemporary numbers like James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." Schuur sounded comfortable and natural either way, and her solid band of bassist Scott Steed, drummer Jim Zimmerman and saxophonist/vocalist Patrick Lamb went right along with everything she did. This included not only performing a fair variety of music, but also showing good humor as Schuur went on discursive asides involving some combination of them, the crowd and her husband Les "Rocket" Crockett. One of the nicest moments came as she introduced in the crowd Jillean Williams, the widow of the great Joe Williams, prior to launcher her rendition of "Everyday I Have The Blues."

Diane Schuur being blind, I suppose it could seem a little gimmicky that her set included numbers by both Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder; that is, I guess it might appear that way if not for the fact that Charles and Wonder are two of the most widely covered performers of the last half-century, sighted or no. She handled this material with considerable skill, particularly Charles' "You Don't Know Me." Though I won't go as far as to say that she brought special insight into these particular numbers that other performers lack. Her observation and demonstration of the nuances in the way she, Wonder and Charles each tend to sway when they are really feeling it was interesting.

Vegas being "Sin City" and all, her frankly sexual between-song patter seemed a little less shocking then it has in some other contexts--her performance at this year's conference of the International Association for Jazz Education comes to mind--this crowd was more of a mind to applaud a risqué remark than to blush at it. Still, there was more than one moment when I thought that Crockett has to be one of the most patient and understanding people in the world to play straight man to his wife like that every night. In truth, though, it was sweet more than anything--you can see how much they must really love each other.

Vegas, among other things, is a city of shows. The quartet performance led by Diane Schuur this night was hardly the glitziest in town, but it was surely among the most honest. Good music, good times--you really don't need anything else.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Diane Schuur
  • Concert Date: 11/12/2005
  • Subtitle: Diane Schuur Does Vegas
  • Venue: Boulder Station
  • City State Country: Las Vegas, NV
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