Saturday, April 30, 2005

Schuur Fire a misfire

Dianne Schuur has a new record out with the Carribean Jazz Project on Telarc. I'm not a big fan of Schuur's, but I've enjoyed some of her records in the past, and have played them on the radio. I've played this one too, but I don't care much for it. My main gripe: Schuur (or any jazz singer on record) has rarely sounded so stiff in delivery! Jazz singers, (Louis, Ella, Billie, Joe Williams, even Diana Krall) and jazz influenced singers (Sinatra, Rosie, Nat, Tony Bennett) all share one thing in common, that they don't share with most pop singers. It's not about vocal improvisation, or scatting (I've never heard a record of Shirley Horn or Billie Holiday with "scat" singing, but they're unquestionably jazz singers). Rather it's about rhythm, time, and taking some rhythmic (and often melodic) liberties with a tune.

Given the setting for Schuur Fire, (and the name) you would expect some fireworks, right? But instead Schuur plays it as close to the sheet music as you can get. It's almost jarring to listen to these songs played so straight! Schuur gives each and every quarter note it's exact value, nothing more nothing less. It's not a very inspired set of performances, and this rhythmic detachment is simply annoying after a couple of tunes. The material ranges from James Talyor (Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight) to standards like Poinciana. The band turns in an acceptable performance, but I doubt this will go down as one of the Carribean Jazz Projects most memorable sessions. Maybe if you're a big Dianne Schuur fan, this is for you, but it's not my cup of tea.


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