Diane Schuur: Running on Faith

  • Post author:
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Diane Schuur

running on faith


March 25, 2020

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

Veteran Diane Schuur writes in liner notes that her CD running on faith is the first time she chose all of the included material. “I’ve been focusing on the condition of our world, about what is, about what can be,” she explains. Her tone is forcefully expressive; numbers are a mixture of singing, parlando, a little preaching, and irrepressible instrumental breaks. Ernie Watts (tenor and soprano sax) and Kye Palmer (trumpet and flugelhorn) are top of the line.

“They got me ‘Walkin’ on a Tightrope,’ headin’ for The Twilight Zone” asserts at-ti-tude. Back-end vibrato is an undulating hum. Control of slip/slide octaves makes the rendition her own. Schuur unexpectedly goes high for just a word here and there. Dropped Gs sound natural. Rhythm is infectious. And oh the trumpet! “The Danger Zone” is all dive bar. The vocalist is talking TO us.  Tempo arrives like a rubber-soled, tapped foot. The sax has its way with this tune. (Both songs were written by Percy Mayfield)

Miles Davis’ “All Blues” became iconic as an instrumental. The lyrics, though minimal, may be a revelation. Muted horn glides. Thom Rotella’s quick-fingered guitar goes for the gut. Musicians are all in. “Let It Be” (Paul McCartney) begins halting. Just when I dread the band laying siege, expecting loss of uncluttered openness, the tune takes off with evangelical abandon. (Still, I’d love to hear the accompaniment cut to the bone.)

The cynical “Everything Looks Good at the Starting Line” (Paul W. Thorn/William M. Maddox), with back-up vocals, straddles gospel and blues. An extended instrumental has the feel of a New Orleans marching band. You can almost see Schuur’s head nodding “no.” She comments from experience. In direct contrast, “This Bitter Earth” (Clyde L. Otis) conjures satin and a spotlight. Circling brushes (Kendall Kay), delicate piano (Schuur), and nodding bass (Bruce Lett) make the palpably melancholy song more smoothly lyrical than others in the collection.

“Running on Faith” (Jerry Lynn Williams) and “Way Over Yonder” (Carole King) are gospel without the flash. The first muses with sincerity, the second, pours like molasses. Both seem personal. Schuur closes with a gorgeous, minimalist piano rendition of the traditional “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Did I say gorgeous?

Good listening, fully fleshed character, fine musicianship. Cohesive arrangements have clear intention. We get it.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.