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Diane Schuur

Jazz vocalist and pianist Diane Schuur delivers one of her most personal albums to date with the release of Some Other Time.

The CD is a loving tribute to the music that filled her home when she was a young girl. Made to coincide with the 40th anniversary of her mother’s death, the album is a strong return to Schuur’s jazz roots.

The Grammy-award winning singer performs selections by Gershwin, Berlin, and Hammerstein, among others. With her strong, flexible voice, she makes the songs as fresh and relevant as they were when they were first recorded.

Some Other Time features a rare 1964 recording of a 10-year-old Schuur singing "September in the Rain" at the Holiday Inn in Tacoma, Wash. The recording shows that even then, Schuur was a special talent.

The CD also gives us an intimate exchange between Schuur and her mother, who is heard asking her daughter if she knows "Danny Boy." A young Schuur answers that she will record the song just for her one day. This is followed by the singer, who is blind, delivering on that promise and recording the Irish classic for the new album.

The song may be for Schuur’s mother, but we all benefit. Is this an album that you’ve wanted to do for a while?

Diane Schuur: It was the 40th anniversary of my mother’s death, and I really wanted to pay homage for the wonderful legacy that she passed on down to me by exposing me to such great music. This album represents our parents’ generation and how they grew up listening to this music. I just feel so good about being able to do an album like this. Tell us about the musical connection that you had with your mother.

Diane Schuur: We had a radio constantly going at our house. When musical programs came on TV, we would watch them, and we brought home lots of wonderful records on the three speeds-33, 45, and 78. It’s pretty amazing to live over 50 years and how the technology has changed so much. When there was vinyl, I just loved opening a record and smelling that wonderful smell. It was just great. You don’t get that experience today.

Diane Schuur: It’s a totally different thing. At home, your family played the great standards, but you were also probably listening to rock and other types of music.

Diane Schuur: Oh yeah, for all of life. I grew up with Elvis Presley and the Beatles. And, I loved the music of the ’70s. Was it hard to pick the songs for the new CD?

Diane Schuur: No. I knew what I wanted to do. Mark Silag, my manager, gave me good input on a couple of tunes that he figured would be cool for me to do. It was a collaborative effort between all of us. Were these songs among your mother’s favorites?

Diane Schuur: "Danny Boy" was for sure. As you know, she asked me if I knew it. After all these years, even though she is deceased, her wish was fulfilled. I was able to do it. I understand that many of the songs came together spontaneously in the studio.

Diane Schuur: There was a lot of spontaneity. We had picked out all of the material beforehand, but during the rehearsal process we were able to do a nip and tuck here and there. Once we got into the studio, it was like a two-take or three-take deal, and we would move on. The last day that I performed the tunes and after the guys had to go to the airport, I would just do them all straight on down. Do you have a couple of favorite tracks that stand out for you?

Diane Schuur: One of my favorites is "Blue Skies," especially the jam at the end when I’m holding that really long note. Another highlight is your version of "My Favorite Things."

Diane Schuur: It’s kind of a new approach and some alternate changes in the chord structure, which I thought was really cool. Randy Porter, the piano player, did such a good job on the arrangements. We got together at the house before the rehearsals and went over everything, and arranged everything. The opening is "Nice Work If You Can Get It," which serves as an invitation to the CD.

Diane Schuur: Yes, like a prelude. It all segues into each other. Were there any surprises when you were making the recording?

Diane Schuur: One of the pleasant surprises was how tight the group is. Randy Porter is on piano, Scott Steed on bass, Reggie Jackson on drums, and Dan Balmer on guitar. I would be listening and I’d be thinking, "These cats are good." How is the new CD different from some of your other recordings?

Diane Schuur: It’s different in the fact that I didn’t use a lot of pyrotechnics. I didn’t go a lot into the upper register. If I went there at all, it was more of a surprise or an accent on something versus being caught up there all the time. I wanted to use a different approach and concentrate on letting the lyrics and the music propel things forward. I think what really comes out in this record is more of a maturity factor. I’m proud of it being part of a body of work. I’m very happy about it. There’s also a surprise on the CD, "September in the Rain."

Diane Schuur: From when I was 10. I’m so glad that worked out. You were 10 and performing at the Holiday Inn. Did you perform there regularly?

Diane Schuur: I auditioned and worked there for a few months every weekend. What do you remember about that?

Diane Schuur: I remember performing with the same group. I remember people smoking their cigarettes. There would be a bit of talking and drinking, but it was a neat atmosphere. I remember wearing these cocktail dresses. I was developed even then. What are you doing when you are not working?

Diane Schuur: I went to a theater to see a movie that was nominated for an Academy Award. We went to see "Juno" the other day. And we have two cats so I love to stay with the puss-pusses. Did you like "Juno?"

Diane Schuur: I did. It’s an excellent flick. It looks like you will be hitting the road for a while.

Diane Schuur: We are. We’ll be working at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., Scullers in Boston, IMAC in Huntington, N.Y. We’ll also be at Blue Note in New York and then going to Europe ending up in Moscow. We’ll then be back in the United States for more dates, including at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco at the beginning of April. All the dates are on my Web site.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Diane Schuur
  • Interview Date: 2/1/2008
  • Subtitle: Schuur Returns to Her Roots
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