Born c. 1954; grew up in Auburn, WA; daughter of David (a police captain) and Joan Schuur. Education: Attended State School for the Blind, Vancouver, WA. Addresses: Publicist--Solters & Digney, 8383 Wilshire Blvd #649, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, website: http://www.solterspr.com. Website--Diane Schurr Official Website: http://www.dianeschuur.com.
Two-time Grammy winner Diane Schuur is considered one of contemporary jazz's leading vocalists. She has been compared to jazz greats Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan, and is noted for her expressive and powerful vocal deliveries. Blind from birth, the talented and effervescent singer, nicknamed "Deedles," has earned the admiration of many of jazz's greatest musicians. "Diane's got a great ear," saxophonist David Sanborn told Mary Huzinec in People. "She 's a natural singer with an easy way of phrasing in the tradition of the great song interpreters." Fellow saxophone master Stan Getz concurred. "She can sing almost any style, from scat to country ballads that can tear your heart out," he told Huzinec. "I n my opinion, Diane's got all the equipment to be one of the greats. She's the logical successor to Ella and Sarah."
Schuur grew up in suburban Seattle and was encouraged by both her parents to sing. Her early childhood music heroines were Vaughan and Washington, and Schuur's favorite song was the latter's "What a Difference a Day Makes." Teased by other children for singing like an adult, Schuur retreated to practicing in the closet to emulate her idols. Her mother heard her, as Schuur related to Paul Tough in Savvy: "One day my mom yanked me out of the closet and said 'Here's the micro phone. I'm going to put on a record, and you're going to sing it.'" Schuur complemented her singing with a few music lessons and by the time she was ten had largely taught herself the piano and was performing in local clubs. One memorable performance of h er early years was at the Tacoma (Washington) Holiday Inn. "I'll never forget it," she told Huzinec. "I forgot the words to 'Unforgettable.' I have it on tape with mother in the background saying, 'Oh, my God.'"
Schuur persisted with her singing and eventually was appearing at some of the top jazz clubs in the Pacific Northwest. A big break in her career came in 1979, when she sang a show-stopping rendition of "Amazing Grace" at the prestigious Monterey Jaz z Festival. Getz, impressed with her performance, volunteered his services as mentor and helped her obtain future engagements. Schuur became a regular on the Tonight Show, and was a favorite at the Reagan White House. Regarding a 1986 performance by Schuur at New York City's famed Blue Note club, reviewer Stephen Holden of the New York Times called her "a vocalist of unusual warmth and power." Holden added that Schuur's "emotive directness and ... unex pected shifts of intonation" recalled Phoebe Snow, while her "billowing warmth and optimism" recalled "the friendly embrace" of Kate Smith. Reviewing a Carnegie Hall 1987 concert with Mel Torme and Lonette McKee, Holden added other praises, lauding Schuur 's "clear expansive delivery," her "sophisticated scat technique," and "phrases [that] roll out on a rich thrilling vibrato."
Schuur's debut album, Deedles, was released in 1984, the first of several recordings to showcase her vocal abilities. In 1986, she received her first Grammy, for the album Timeless, and the follo wing year received another, for Diane Schuur & the Count Basie Orchestra. Schuur's recording with the Basie orchestra has been one of her most successful, topping Billboard's traditional jazz chart listing for an impressive 33 weeks. Schuur later branched out from her jazz approach to a more rhythm-and-blues-influenced style. Her 1988 album Talkin' 'Bout You demonstrated this new venture, and was more pop-orientated than her previous albums. Featuring Ray Charles's classics, including the title track, Talkin' 'Bout You, was well received by music critics. Alanna Nash commented in Stereo Review, "The sheer glory of Schu ur's voice, captured here in an ultra-clean production, makes for one of the most engaging albums of the year--pop, jazz, or anywhere in between."
Schuur proved her staying power through the 1990s and into the 2000s, first with her 1991 follow up to Talkin' 'Bout You, Pure Schuur, and then with nearly an album a year from then on, including In Tribute (1992), Love Songs (1993), Heart to Heart (1994), Love Walked In (1995), Blues for Schuur (1997), Music Is My Life (1999), Friends for Schuur (2000), and Swingin' for Schuur (2001).
Late in 2003, Schuur released Midnight, featuring all-original songs written for the album by pop star Barry Manilow. Manilow also performs alongside Schuur on the album, along with jazz powerhou ses Alan Broadbent on piano, Chuck Berghofer on bass, and world-class drummers Harvey Mason and Peter Erskine. Schuur launched a concert tour to promote her latest work, and, lasting into 2004, the tour also marked a milestone in Schuur's career--the 25th anniversary of the fateful Monterey Jazz Festival that established her as a major force on the jazz scene.
In person, Schuur maintains a positive, cheerful outlook on life, which carries through to her performances on stage. "Even though a song might be sad, I'll try not to drown it," she was quoted in the New York Times. "Like Johnny Mercer said, I always try to accentuate the positive." Regarding her Blue Note program, Holden commented on this aspect of Schuur as revealed through her performance of familiar jazz standards. "On all of them, the singer stamped her engaging, som ewhat childlike musical personality. As an interpreter of lyrics, Ms. Schuur seems instinctively drawn toward whatever affirmative ideas can be gleaned from a song. In her hands, even a lament such as Irving Berlin's 'How About Me' becomes an expression o f the singer's own resilience and eagerness to forgive." Holden called Schuur's singing "as sunny in spirit as it is voluminous."
by Michael E. Mueller and Michael Belfiore
Diane Schuur's Career
Performed at Monterey Jazz Festival, 1979; tutored by jazz saxophonist Stan Getz beginning in 1979; performed on the Tonight Show, at the White House, and Carnegie Hall, 1980s; signed with GRP record label; released debut album, Deedles, 1984; released numerous albums through the 1980s; won Grammy Awards for Best Female Jazz Performance, in 1986, for her album Timeless, and in 1987 for Diane Schuur & the Count Bas ie Orchestra; released numerous albums through the 1990s; released albums into the 2000s on the Atlantic and Concord Jazz labels.
Diane Schuur's Awards
Grammy Awards for Best Female Jazz Performance for Timeless, 1986, and for Diane Schuur & the Count Basie Orchestra, 1987.
- Selected discography
- Deedles GRP, 1984.
- Schuur Thing GRP, 1985.
- Timeless GRP, 1986.
- Diane Schuur & the Count Basie Orchestra GRP, 1987.
- Talkin' 'Bout You GRP, 1988.
- The Diane Schuur Collection GRP, 1990.
- Pure Schuur GRP, 1991.
- In Tribute GRP, 1992.
- Love Songs GRP, 1993.
- Heart to Heart GRP, 1994.
- Love Walked In GRP, 1995.
- Blues for Schuur GRP, 1997.
- Music Is My Life Atlantic, 1999.
- Friends for Schuur Concord Jazz, 2000.
- Swingin' for Schuur Concord Jazz, 2001.
- Midnight Concord Jazz, 2003.
- Down Beat, February 1987.
- Jazz Journal International, April 1988.
- Jazz Times, October 1987; November 1988; October 1989.
- New York Times, November 24, 1986; June 28, 1987; September 5, 1990.
- People, June 6, 1988; November 7, 1988.
- Savvy, May 1989.
- Seattle Times, February 10, 2004.
- Stereo Review, February 1990.
- "Diane Schuur," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 19, 2004).
- Diane Schuur Official Website, http://www.dianeschuur.com (February 19, 2004).