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Diane Schuur: The Best of Diane Schuur

Robert Spencer By

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Big band, big sound, big brass, big voice-"All Right, OK, You Win, (I'm in Love with You)." Smaller band, but voice still big and way up front: "Try a Little Tenderness." The Best of Diane Schuur shows off the singer's large charms as first displayed on nine GRP discs. She sings beautifully up and down in her range — she can pierce your heart with that huge wail (as on "Try a Little Tenderness") and then meet the Diana Krall types on their own turf in numbers like "Them There Eyes" (although she takes it much farther up and out than Diana tends to go).

If you're looking for a great contemporary jazz singer, and haven't heard Schuur, pick this up. Otherwise the source albums are a better buy, for she never drops off much in quality: There's B.B. King, in duet on "Try a Little Tenderness," and the whole album Diane Schuur and B.B. King Heart to Heart. Schuur is a fine match for the legend, but I would quibble with the way the duet is organized: the title's admonition, originally advice to a third party, becomes Schuur's admonition to B.B. It sounds whiny, and whiny Schuur ain't. The other turn with King on this record, "At Last," works somewhat better. In any case, the objection seems extra-musical — it sounds wonderful.

"Sunday Kind of Love" is enlivened by a terrific trumpet solo by-whom? The disc says, "Jack Sheldon, Wayne Bergeron-trumpets." Great; one of them is first-rate. To "Speak Low," Tom Scott brings his tenor, which is just fine, and his strings, which are perhaps just a trifle much. The tune's "Ipanema-ville" guitar would do nicely on its own, thank you. And thank a certain Dori Caymmi.

Joe Williams brings his somewhat bigger name to "Deed I Do" (What can be said about Joe Williams?). It is high praise for Schuur that she is by no means outgunned in this duet. And who's that with the tenor saxophone break that harks back to classic pulse-stoppers like John Coltrane's entrance on "Freddie Freeloader"? Well, it could be Fred Jackson, Ernie Fields, Joel C. Peskin, or Jack Nimitz. At least there's no mistaking Mr. Stan Getz on the gossamer "A Time for Love," where Jeremy Lubbock's orchestral arrangement is not earth-shattering, but meshes nicely with Getz's buttery-smooth tone. This is Getz in 1986, from the disc Timeless. Has there ever been a plusher sound? I just wish they'd thought of a better ending than the ghastly falsetto chant here.

Then there a big band "Round Midnight." Here her touch is more delicate than usual, and she comes up with a real new contribution to this well-covered item. "Stormy Monday" storms along in Schuur's more accustomed fashion, and "Deedles' Blues" shows off the Count Basie Orchestra. They can still kick, and Schuur sounds right out of 1958. Atomic Basie, Atomic Schuur. It's a Best of, sure, so it's understandable that there would be no weak cuts. Still, with Diane Schuur's voice, weak cuts would be hard to find.

| Record Label: GRP Records | Style: Contemporary/Smooth


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