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 love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.