Diane Schuur desert’s newest music icon

August 20th, 2013 | by Bruce Fessier | Comments
Diane Schuur at Jazz in the Pines

Diane Schuur performing Saturday at the Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines Festival.
Ming C. Lowe photo/The Desert Sun

Diane Schuur, one of the premier vocalists in jazz or any other musical genre, has moved to Cathedral City, she said Saturday from the stage of the Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines Festival.

The two-time Grammy Award winner told me after her set she moved from Dana Point on July 26, 2012. She had to place her husband, Les Crockett, in a convalescent home in San Jose for treatment for Parkinson’s-related dementia, she said, so the move to Cathedral City was partly to downsize.

But, Schuur, who turns 60 in December, has a history in the Coachella Valley.

The blind singer-pianist first performed in the desert at the old La Quinta Jazz Festival. Swing era star Dinah Shore, whose name was often confused with Schuur’s, declared herself a fan after hearing her perform. Schuur went on to perform at the McCallum Theatre with the Count Basie “ghost” band.

In 2002-2003, she was a frequent guest at Barry Manilow’s Palm Springs home while Manilow was writing original material for Schuur and producing her 2003 album, “Midnight.” She performed a benefit for ACT For MS at the now Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage that year and Manilow sat in a back row to try to avoid drawing attention away from her.

“I love Barry Manilow,” Schuur said while sitting back stage with her friend, jazz singer Janis Mann.

Schuur was born in Tacoma, Wash., and raised in nearby Auborn. Her father was a jazz pianist and Schuur, nicknamed Deedles, learned to sing Dinah Washington’s signature song, “What A Difference A Day Makes,” as a toddler.

Her first recorded performance was singing country music at a Holiday Inn at age 10, but she grew up idolizing Washington and Sarah Vaughan. The late saxophonist Stan Getz began touting her after hearing her perform at the 1979 Monterey Jazz Festival. She sang at the White House with him in 1982 and was proclaimed the next ”Schuur” thing in jazz with her 1984 debut album, “Deedles.”

She won consecutive Grammys for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Female in 1986 and 1987 for “Timeless” and “Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra,” respectively. She was nominated for three other Grammy Awards. Her 1994 album with B.B. King, “Heart To Heart,” entered the Billboard charts at No. 1.

She married Crockett in 1996 and always introduced him as “Rocket,” which often got a laugh because he’s 30 years older than Schuur.

She had neck surgery for degenerative disc disease in 2001 and said it left her with some vocal challenges.

“I’m overcoming challenges even as we speak,” she said. “I’ve got a vocal coach now and I think it’s helping. It’s helping me because after you get to a certain age, your voice does change.”

Schuur is hoping to release an album of songs associated with Getz and Frank Sinatra by the end of the year. Her last studio CD, “The Gathering” in 2011, is a collection of country songs with country and jazz guest artists including Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Larty Carlton and Kirk Whalum.

Mann called Schuur a fearless improviser who has made her a better performer.

“I was not joking when I said Deeds taught me everything,” Mann said. “She made me fearless.”



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