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07/20/14

Diane Schuur
I Remember You
Jazzheads Records

Diane Schuur is the Ethel Merman of jazz: a consummate professional who never misses her mark and knows precisely how to sell whatever she’s selling, with a big sound and a penchant for grand gestures. For Schuur’s latest, she is backed by an all-star ensemble—pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist Ben Wolfe, drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., saxophonist Joel Frahm and guitarists Romero Lubambo and Roni Ben-Hur—as she salutes two of her musical heroes, Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra.

Across all nine tracks, her “go big or go home” credo is exercised ardently. On “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” her desire isn’t merely intense but towering, complete with a closing swoon. Her “Here’s That Rainy Day” isn’t drizzly, it’s cyclonic. On “Didn’t We,” pensive heartache is amped up to reeling regret.

Yet just like Merman, her thunderous ways invariably work because she never, no matter how outsized her performance, loses sight of a song’s emotional core. And at times she can be a master of nuance. Here, the most striking example is Jobim’s “How Insensitive.” Schuur could have bathed it in pathos and dejection like pretty much every previous interpreter, including Sinatra. Instead, she gets what so many others have missed, that it’s about guilt, not heartache, skillfully navigating that subtle yet profound shift in perspective.

Originally published in June 2014
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