DIANE SCHUUR: Some Other Time (Label: Heads Up)

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DIANE SCHUUR: Some Other Time

Washington’s Diane Schuur has enjoyed a long and distinguished career. Blessed with perfect pitch, her particular take on jazz – often melding it with pop, country and blues – has won her two Grammys and countless lesser awards. Here on ‘Some Other Time’ the blind vocalist/pianist returns to her straight jazz roots and offers a selection of songs that were particular favourites with her jazz-loving parents. So the thirteen tracks are, by and large, taken from the catalogues of the great American songwriters, and are featured in classic jazz quartet format. But Schuur and arranger Randy Porter (whose piano features on all but three tracks) along with producer Marc Silag deliver them in new colours and contemporary shadings. So, for instance, on the opener, the Gershwins’ ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’, the band set up a rich harmonic platform for Schuur’s clear vocal, while on the same writers’ ‘I’ve Got Beginners Luck’, the time signature is strangely flexible – even elastic, but the vocal keeps it together. Schuur takes piano duties herself on two tracks – Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s ‘Its Magic’ and the Tony Bennett hit ‘The Good Life’. On both she shows that her playing is sadly undervalued. Interestingly, the album ends with two very personal cuts. First there’s a version of ‘September In The Rain’ which Diane recorded for her parents back in 1964 (she was just 10) – and despite her tender years there’s real gusto in there. Then there’s a new recording of the Irish air ‘Danny Boy’, which Schuur has recorded specially in memory of her mother. Poignantly, you’ll hear the mother’s voice (recorded again in 1964) asking for the song. Yes, I know its sounds contrived – some might even say over-sentimental, but the heartfelt reading of this most plaintive of songs makes the whole thing sound just right. It gives a kind of closure to the album – a unique ending to a very decent straight jazz vocal set.
(BB) 3/5