Sunday, June 12, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: DIANE SCHUUR - THE GATHERING
The Grammy-winning jazz singer and piano player has branched out before, collaborating with the likes of B.B. King, Stevie Wonder and (ulp) Barry Manilow. This one might throw a few people though, as it's a full country album. It just so happens country has long been an important part of her career, her first love, and even her first single was a weeper. With Ray Charles as her inspiration from his famous Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music album, she's produced this collection of 10 classic 60's ballads, fused with jazz and R'n'B. She also cites country pianist Floyd Cramer (Last Date), the inventor of the slip note style, and one of the architects of the 60's Nashville sound.
The set list here includes Willie Nelson's Healing Hands Of Time, Merle Haggard's Today I Started Loving You Again, Tammy Wynette's Til I Can Make It On My Own and Kris Kristofferson's Nobody Wins. These shouldn't be looked at as hit songs, but rather heartbreak numbers, the saddest of songs from a time when Nashville writers and producers were tapping into maturity and modern attitudes, instead of the traditional rural and hick sound. The great Hank Cochran is featured, with his hit for Patsy Cline, Why Can't He Be You, a song of pure insight into the trap of love, when only one person matters, even if another person would be so much better for you.
Schuur has a wonderful voice for this type of material, understated but with wonderful technique and timing. She knows there's a lot more power in phrasing than in volume. For the most part the music works for the songs, instead of trying to shoehorn the material into some kind of country-jazz hybrid. It's all about the melody, and melancholy here. I loves me some heartache, and Schuur delivers.