Since she first began recording, jazz legend Diane Schuur has had a dream. It is one she never got to achieve—until now. The singer wanted to record an album of classic country songs, those that inspired her when she was still a child. The singer has covered a lot of territory, collaborating with a range of artists from straight-ahead jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and the swinging Count Basie Orchestra to the Latin-infused Caribbean Jazz Project to blues titan B.B. King and pop icon Stevie Wonder. She has received Grammy Awards, sold millions of albums and toured the world. But her roots were planted when she began listening to country music, and that’s where she wanted to go.
On The Gathering, her Vanguard Records debut, Deedles, as she’s fondly known to both friends and fans, turns a corner into a brand new lane, infusing her jazz sensibilities into ten country-brewed tunes from such seminal songwriters as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Hank Cochran, Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller and others. Recorded in Nashville in largely a one day-long session on December 6, 2010, Schuur is accompanied by a stellar Nashville backup band augmented by several all-star caliber guests, including vocalists Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Carmella Ramsey; guitarists Mark Knopfler and Larry Carlton; and tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum.
The Gathering allows Diane Schuur to embrace her country roots for the first time, really, as a recording artist. Even though she grew up weaned on the music of classic jazz vocalist Dinah Washington and others, Schuur’s first recording was the country single “Dear Mommy and Daddy,” produced by Jimmy Wakely. “I was in the 10th grade and I met Jimmy when my father took me to an audition,” says Schuur. “Jimmy said he wanted to record me, so I flew with my sister to Burbank [California], stayed at his home and recorded the song that was written by his daughter Linda. It went to No. 3 on the country charts. So The Gathering completes a full circle for me. I figured, if Ray Charles could record a country album with the inflections of blues and jazz and be successful, why can’t I?”
Even though the country seed had been planted, Schuur gravitated to jazz later in high school. “I was listening to the music of Duke Ellington and George Shearing, which I cut my teeth on,” she says. “George, in particular, was definitely a piano mentor.” In 1975, she auditioned for the Tonight Show orchestra leader Doc Severinson, which led to her association with the band’s drummer Ed Shaughnessy, who enlisted her to sing a gospel suite with his band at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Still a teenager, she turned heads and opened ears of musicians performing there including Stan Getz, who invited her to perform at a talent showcase at the White House. That eventually led to her debut album, Deedles, on GRP, in 1984. She went on to record several albums for GRP, Atlantic and Concord before signing with Vanguard Records.
“I resisted the idea of doing a country album,” Schuur says. “But, finally, a year ago, after watching the Country Music Association’s awards show on TV, I felt the time was right to return to that music.” She notes that in addition to jazz pianists, she was also … Read More