Thomasville Entertainment Foundation will present vocalist/pianist Diane Schuur – known as “Deedles” to her friends – on April 3 at 8 p.m. in the Thomasville Center for the Arts.
Influenced by the work of legendary artists such as Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, Schuur has built a distinguished career interpreting jazz standards of the 1940s and '50s as well as the pop music of her youth.
Over the past three decades, Schuur has explored a variety of musical genres alongside an impressive list of collaborators, including Barry Manilow, B.B. King, Ray Charles, José Feliciano and Count Basie.
Schuur has been nominated for the Grammy Award five times. She won the statue twice in the Best Female Vocalist-Jazz Category for her albums “Timeless” (1987) and “Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra” (1988) released by GRP Records.
Schuur has toured the world with musical greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder. She performed at Carnegie Hall and at the White House at the invitation of Nancy Reagan.
She has appeared and performed on TV talk shows, the Grammy Awards ceremony, and on “Sesame Street,” where she sang a duet with Elmo.
Attention-getting eyewear is her signature. Schuur once joked, “I paid two thousand dollars for these glasses and I still can’t see a thing!” Born prematurely, the artist has been blind since infancy.
Music became a primary influence in her suburban Seattle upbringing. Her father, an amateur piano player, and her mother, an avid collector of Duke Ellington and Dinah Washington recordings, introduced their young daughter to jazz and encouraged her to sing. By age two and blessed with perfect pitch, “Deedles” had learned to sing Washington’s best-known song, “What a Difference a Day Makes.”
The young prodigy taught herself to play piano by ear, but also received formal training at the Washington State School for the Blind. She began performing professionally at age nine. A recording of her performance at a Tacoma Holiday Inn reveals that, by age 10, Schuur had already developed the rich, resonant voice that would carry her to the heights of professional success.
At age 18, Schuur made her first recording, a country single titled “Dear Mommy and Daddy,” produced by Jimmy Wakely, but her live performances remained centered in jazz.
In 1975, an audition with trumpeter Doc Severinson (leader of the “Tonight Show” band) led to drummer Ed Shaughnessy’s invitation to join him onstage at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Schuur was singing “Amazing Grace” with Shaughnessy’s band at the same festival in 1979 when she was discovered by jazz tenor saxophonist Stan Getz. Getz, in turn, invited Schuur to take part in a televised talent showcase at the White House. A record contract with GRP soon followed, and Schuur’s debut album, “Deedles,” was released in 1984.
Schuur has released more than 20 albums to date. Her collaboration with Count Basie spent 33 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard jazz charts. “Pure Schuur” (1991) hit the top spot on the Contemporary Jazz chart, and “Heart to Heart” (1994) with B.B. King entered the Billboard charts at number one.
A new album, an homage to two of her mentors, Frank Sinatra and Stan Getz, is scheduled for release this year.
This concert completes TEF's 2013-14 series. Tickets for the performance by Diane Schuur are $35 for adults and $15 for students. Phone 229-226-7404 or order online at TEFconcerts.com .
Thomasville Entertainment Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer-led organization. Its annual concert series features internationally celebrated artists and ensembles in the fields of opera, theater, dance, classical music, jazz and other forms of entertainment. In addition, TEF offers educational workshops and scholarship opportunities to area students.