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April 2008

Diane Schuur
Some Other Time
Concord Records

For a long while, I wasn’t too sure about Schuur. My unflagging admiration for the enormity of her vocal prowess was continually tainted by my distaste for her implacable penchant for histrionic razzle-dazzle. She was, to me, like the Ethel Merman of jazz: undeniably gifted yet annoyingly bombastic. Now, at last, Schuur has crafted an album, comprising a dozen tracks meant to salute the music she grew up with in her parents’ home in Auburn, Wash., that is all gentle strengths with no grandiose weaknesses. While, at age 54, Schuur’s brassy instrument shows not a hint of tarnish, it is here burnished with a softer patina. Her bright, ofttimes distracting, vocal shine has been replaced by a gentle, alluring glow. Not too long ago Schuur would have ridden “Blue Skies,” “Taking a Chance on Love,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “Beginner’s Luck” like a pack of wild horses. Here they’re not tamed, but skillfully reined.

The title track, one of the most heartbreakingly gorgeous tunes ever crafted, can be tricky. It requires a tender balance of misty adoration and bruised pain that I wouldn’t have expected from Schuur, yet she handles it flawlessly. Likewise, her disc-closing rendition of “Danny Boy,” with Schuur backed solely by Dan Balmer’s gentle guitar, is a masterful study in stirring, silken beauty. There’s also a bonus track that is pure fun: a 1964 rendition, captured on a tinny tape recorder during a Schuur family vacation in Tacoma, of a 10-year-old Diane belting out “September in the Rain” and sounding like a preadolescent cross between Judy Garland and Sophie Tucker.

Originally published in April 2008
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