Accentuate the Positive, For Schuur

Flynn MainStage

Sunday, June 12 at 8pm

By Lorraine Ryan, Burlington Writers Workshop

Two-time Grammy winner jazz singer and pianist Diane Schuur completes Burlington’s Jazz Festival on Sunday and will prove to be an event that will end the festival with a resounding exclamation.

Diane’s career took off like a rocket that careened to the stars when legendary Jazz saxophonist Stan Getz caught just a few notes of her rendition of “Amazing Grace” at the 1979 Monterey Jazz Festival and watched her literally blow the crowd away.

“She’s got an incredible range,” Getz said. “She can sing almost any style, from scat to country ballads that can tear your heart out,” Getz said. “She’s the logical successor to Ella [Fitzgerald] and Sarah [Vaughan].” Schuur took him up on his offer to mentor her and soon bookings and opportunities rolled in, including performances at the White House, where she was a favorite of Nancy Reagan.

A disciple of iconic jazz singers like Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, Ms. Schuur successfully embraced the established music of her parents’ generation but reached out her arms to the pop songs of her youth during the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Her repertoire extends beyond pure jazz to new-age jazz and going further to country and pop. She’s collaborated with a range of diverse artists from B.B. King, Barry Manilow, Quincy Jones, Stan Getz, Alison Krauss, Ray Charles, and notably, Sesame Street’s Elmo, whose bubbly enthusiasm matches her own.

Diane, nicknamed “Deedles”, had reason not to look at life positively. Born two months premature, she became blind when too much oxygen was pumped inside her incubator. But blessed with an indomitable spirit she belted out “What a Difference a Day Makes” when just a toddler. She is also blessed with perfect pitch and a crystalline voice that effortlessly works in soft, reflective songs or energetically bounces to a rousing scat number. Her supportive parents encouraged her to sing and by the age of ten she managed to teach herself how to play the piano.

Schuur performs with the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra that had its beginnings 81 years ago in Kansas City, proceeding to develop and maintain one of the greatest jazz orchestras in music history. Count Basie was able to get many of the greatest instrumentalists and vocalists in jazz to be a part of his orchestra and has played many times for royalty around the world. Now led by Scotty Barnhardt, the orchestra includes a number of musicians hand-selected by Basie himself.

The evening promises to satisfy every listener – nostalgic for some, fresh and innovative for others – and whether toes are tapping, fingers are snapping, voices are singing along, it will be a memorable event.

And what most fans of Diane Schuur agree on, it is her positive outlook, her contagious smile and a passion for life that raises the musical bar to even greater heights.