Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

March 29, 2014


THOMASVILLE — A voice that used to be contained in a childhood closet has emerged as a powerful force in the world of contemporary jazz.

Diane Schuur, set to perform at the Thomasville Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, owns two Grammy Awards and was nominated for three others.

“I feel blessed,” Schuur said while making coffee in her Cathedral City, Calif., home on Friday.

Schuur’s career spans more three decades. She has collaborated on projects with the Count Basie Orchestra, Barry Manilow, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Jose Feliciano and many others. Three of the collaborations topped the Billboard Chart.

Despite her lengthy career and list of accolades, Schuur isn’t slowing down. She has a CD set for release on June 10.

“I’m 60 years old, but I still feel like I’ve got a lot of pep in me,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m 60.”

Blind since birth, Schuur grew up in Auburn, Wash., in a house often filled with the sound of jazz. Her father was a piano-playing police captain and her mother kept a huge collection of Duke Ellington and Dinah Washington records.

At the tender age of 2, Schuur, gifted with perfect pitch, started sneaking into her closet to mimic what she heard. She began teaching herself how to play the piano a short while later.

“I remember singing in the closet very well. I did that for a lot of years,” Schuur said. “It seemed like a good refuge for me until my mom dragged me out when I was probably nine or so.”

Schuur, nicknamed “Deedles” by her father, was thrilled each time her parents brought new records home.

“As you know, they were wrapped in cellophane,” Schuur said. “There was nothing like that wonderful smell when you first opened an album. There’s just nothing like it.”

Her parents’ music collection was heavy on Dinah Washington, George Shearing and Nat King Cole, and she loved it. She enjoyed Elvis Presley and the Beatles, too.

“I love music in general, but jazz is my roots,” Schuur said.

The former Washington State School for the Blind student performed in public for the first time when she was 10. It was at a Holiday Inn in nearby Tacoma. Wash. The rich, resonant style she is noted for is evident on a recording of the occasion.

In 1971, Schuur cut her first record, a country single entitled, “Dear Mommy and Daddy.” By her early teens, however, she returned to Dinah Washington as her inspiration. She was just a toddler when she mastered the jazz legend’s signature song, “What a Difference a Day Makes.”

Schuur has explored most of America’s musical landscape, but the territory in her upcoming CE is very familiar. It’s an homage to two of her mentors, Frank Sinatra and Stan Getz.

The recording commemorates her “official” discovery by Getz at the 1979 Monterey Jazz Festival.

“It’s a very loving tribute,” Schuur said. “The songs will be a lot of fun. I will be performing a lot of them during my tour in Georgia.

“I’m really excited about it.”

Including her Thomasville stop, presented by the Thomasville Entertainment Foundation, Schuur’s Georgia schedule includes Evans, Macon and Alpharetta. By the end of April, she will be touring in Italy.

Other 2014 concerts are slated in Japan and Malaysia.

Schuur said she treasures her memories of Sinatra and Getz.

“I had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with Frank Sinatra in 1988,” she said. “I stayed at his house. It was quite an amazing an experience.

“He actually gave me a painting that he had done and it hangs in my kitchen.”

The new CD, titled “I Remember You,” is loaded with love ballads, many sung by Sinatra. “It’s Wonderful,” “Nice and Easy,” “Watch What Happens” and “Under My Skin” are included.

“Then we get into the dissolution of love,” Schuur said.

The CD continues with “How Insensitive,” “Here’s that Rainy Day,” the title track, “Didn’t We?,” “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” “Don’t Worry About Me” and “For Once in My Life.”

Some of the CD’s tunes touch on personal experiences, she explained.

“That allows me to sing them with some authenticity,” she said. “Unless a person has really lived through those kinds of experiences, how could they really connect and identify with the audience as far as that?

“It’s like I’m starting the second half of my life on a personal and professional level.”

Schuur said she has no outside interests. Her music is her focus and she gives every performance her all.

“As far as crowds go, whether it’s a 1,000, 10,000 or like 48,000 like one time in China, it’s pretty much unanimously the same,” she said. “They are all ‘Deedles’ fans. I’m really looking forward to going to Thomasville.”

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