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Swingin' with Diane Schuur

Diane Schuur Diane Schuur Diego Uchitel
Diane Schuur stands as one of jazz music’s top vocalists, her competition being no less than divas Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Since being discovered by Stan Getz at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1979, Schuur has built an impressive and inspiring career, including winning two Grammy Awards. Blinded at birth in a hospital accident, Schuur also received the prestigious Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award in 2000.

For many of her fans, a highlight in her career is the stunning 1987 album, "Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra." It is here you will find Schuur at her best, singing with a bold and brassy big band behind her.

Diane Schuur’s new CD is aptly called "Swingin’ for Schuur." On the album, she teams with trumpet master Maynard Ferguson and his Big Bop Nouveau Band. The two legends prove to be an explosive combination, giving new twists and more sass to a dozen classics, including "Let’s Fall in Love," "Just One of Those Things," and "Lush Life." Schuur soars alongside bursts of Ferguson’s trumpet.

Schuur recently spoke to about making the new album, singing with a Beach Boy on stage, and recovering from surgery. Congratulations on your new CD, "Swingin’ for Schuur." How would you describe it to people?

Diane Schuur: "The title of the album says it all really. There’s nothing subtle about a big band with me. It reaches out and grabs you because there’s a lot of energy." You brought Maynard Ferguson in to play and lend his efforts. How did that collaboration come about?

Diane Schuur: "I did a video about three years ago in Seattle (with Ferguson and his band.) Ever since that time and after I joined the Concord label, we talked about getting together and possibly doing an album so we did. We came up with the material and went for it." Do you have a favorite song on the new CD?

Diane Schuur: "I like each one for different reasons. ‘Love Letters’ I like a lot. I like ‘Besame Mucho.’" You have always been good about working with different people. There was the CD with B.B. King. You’ve collaborated with Stevie Wonder and many others. Has that been important?

Diane Schuur: "Well, it certainly hasn’t been boring." What did you learn by working with Maynard Ferguson?

Diane Schuur: "I just learned to swing even more." Even in your live shows, you are open to collaboration. At a show at Yoshi’s in Oakland last year, Al Jardine of the Beach Boys was in the audience. You convinced him to join you on stage.

Diane Schuur: "It was so much fun. You never know who you are going to be playing for in an audience. We did ‘I Get Around.’ Oh man, it was really fun for me, and the audience went nuts." Another highlight of your show is the big opening when you come out on stage and belt out "Deedles’ Blues." It’s a perfect introduction. Tell us about that signature song.

Diane Schuur: "We needed a good tune to begin the Count Basie album. Morgan Ames came up with the lyrics, and Frank Foster did the arrangement. It’s been part of my repertoire ever since. That’s been since 1987. I’ve always liked doing it." On the other end of the show, you sometimes close with an a cappella "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." What made you decide to do that song?

Diane Schuur: "I’ve always liked ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ It’s a beautiful tune, and it’s a tribute to Judy Garland and her hopes. I’ve done it for people at memorial services." Are there any stories from the recording session that you can share?

Diane Schuur: "I unfortunately broke my finger during the recording. I was running upstairs at Capitol. A music stand fell on my baby finger and broke it, but the next day I managed to go into the studio and kept working. I didn’t let it stop me." How’s your finger now?

Diane Schuur: "It’s fine. In another matter, I had surgery Nov. 13 on my cervical spine and had three discs removed. The surgery could have damaged my vocal chords, but luckily it didn’t." That’s good to hear. How is your recovery going?

Diane Schuur: "It’s going well. I asked people to pray about it. Prayer works. I believe that. The surgery went well. I was having back pain and down my right wrist. It was hard to play piano. My muscle strength was reduced over half. While there was a risk it could damage my vocal chords, I felt I had to take it. It takes about three months to recovery. But, I’m feeling better." Let’s hope 2002 is a good, healthy year for you.

Diane Schuur: "I hope so, too." What do you have planned for 2002?

Diane Schuur: "I have four dates in February and more beyond that. Things are happening!"

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Diane Schuur
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