Diane Schuur has been singing for an adoring public since the age of nine. Those who have praised and supported her talent include Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, B.B. King, Stan Getz and Leonard Feather. She has been nominated five times for Grammy Awards and has received two, for Timeless in 1986 and Diane Schuur with the Count Basie Orchestra in 1987.
Midnight is a video-enhanced CD, Schuur’s third release for Concord Records and her first under the tutelage of Barry Manilow and his co-producer, co-writer and arranger, Eddie Arkin. Over the course of a year, Manilow, Arkin and their lyricists Marty Panzer, Bruce Sussman and Adrienne Anderson composed thirteen songs for Schuur; two of the selections feature lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
The attempt to create and maintain a smoky, after-hours ambience is generally successful, with good variety, order and pacing; Dan Higgins’ alto sax solos are especially poignant and communicative. The chemistry between Manilow and Schuur seems felicitous; the CD is produced and polished to a slick sheen, with big-name jazz and soul soloists, well-harmonized arrangements, and an orchestra of glistening strings conducted by Jorge Calandrelli.
Schuur’s vocal instrument is in its usual fine form, with good rhythmic and harmonic sensibilities, three-plus octave range, and impeccable intonation (although her emotional intensity sometimes causes her to over-sing and her vibrato to become tremulous). The guest appearances by Allyson, McKnight and Manilow each fit their respective selections and arrangements to a tee.
Those who like their music lush, polished, dramatic and emotional are apt to find this CD to their liking. Those who like an edge to their jazz, a spirit of adventure and unpredictability, would probably do well to look elsewhere.
Track Listing: Meet Me, Midnight; When October Goes; Stay Away from Bill; I
Personnel: Diane Schuur (vocals and piano), Alan Broadbent or Randy Kerber (piano), Chuck Berghofer or
Abraham Laboriel (bass), Peter Erskine or Harvey Mason (drums), Anthony Wilson, Eddie Arkin or
Oscar Castro-Neves (guitar), Dan Higgins (alto sax), Bill Liston (tenor sax), Warren Luening (trumpet
or flugelhorn), Andy Martin (trombone), Paulinho DaCosta (percussion), Alan Estes (percussion and
vibes), Tommy Morgan (harmonica), and strings, with Karrin Allyson, Brian McKnight, and Barry
Manilow (guest vocals), and Yvonne Williams and Phillip Ingram (background vocals)
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.