Artist Spotlight: Diane Schuur

Diane Joanne Schuur, or better known as “Deedles” is an American, jazz singer, and pianist. As of 2015, she had released 23 albums, and had extended her jazz repertoire to include essences of latin, gospel, pop and country music. Diane’s most successful album would remain the number one on the Billboard jazz charts for 33 weeks she won Grammy awards for best female jazz vocal performance in both 1986 and 1987 and has had three other Grammy nominations. Some venues for which she has performed at include the White House, the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall. She has performed with many artists including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Stevie wonder, and Quincy Jones.

What many people do not know about Schuur is that she has been blind from birth due to retinopathy of prematurity but has been gifted with absolute pitch memory and clear vocal tone. She performed on many TV shows such as a popular television show called sesame street where she was a guest performer.

Diane was born in Tacoma, Washington where she would weigh less than 3 pounds and would suffer complications of prematurity which would result in her vision loss, her twin brother had normal vision but lost some hearing. Diane was very talented, she would listen and try to make note of the piano. She would teach herself at a very early age to play the piano and would memorize the keys as to their placement. She frequently played the piano and performed and even recorded some sessions, she did many public performances when she was about 10 years old that would lead her into performing through out school and at venues in Tacoma.

She would be discovered at the age of 22 when she auditioned as a drummer for Ed Shaughnessy. She began singing at a concert in Seattle with bandleader Doc Severinses. People had never heard anyone sing blues like she did that night, the Monterey Jazz Festival continued and her story began.

In 1981, Schuur would record her first album, Pilot of my Destiny in Seattle on an independent label, Great American Records. Diane would receive many phone calls after her performance at the White House after she was invited by Nancy Reagan herself. She would sign with GRP label and would be guided through her first three albums. Her album, Schuur Thing, would make 1985 her year as she would reach number 10 on the Billboard Jazz charts. In 1988 she would receive a phone call from Frank Sinatra asking her to sing at a benefit concert in Palm Springs. She would attend and fill in for Liza Minnelli who would be unable to perform. She would take her unique singing style and channel it into her career of crossing many genres and creating a unique listening style.

Till now, Diane has traveled all across the United States and the world. She has crossed into recording her first country album in 2011 all the while still maintaining her unique style of singing. She has continued being a repeat guest on The Tonight Show and as of 2016 and 2017 she has booked dates to perform in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Rome, Guanajuato and many more cities all around the globe.

André has had the blessed opportunity to work closely with Diane Schuur. He could not express more joy and thankfulness to have had opened for her at a sold out show at the Pantages Theatre in Tacoma, Washington. Having worked with other Grammy award winning artists, André still finds Diane to have been the most unique one to have worked with and opened for. Her soft and smooth voice would impact Andrés career by motivating him to incorporate his luscious and silky vocals into his music for all to hear.

Artist Spotlight: Tony Bennett

Born August 3, 1926, Anthony Dominick Benedetto would be professionally known as an American singer of big bands, show tunes and jazz, he would be known around the music industry as Tony Bennett. Born and raised in Astoria, New York to an Italian-American family, Tony would have a way for music at an early age. Fighting in the last stages of the second World War as an infantryman, he would soon venture home and develop a singing technique that would allow him to sign with Columbia Records. 

Bennett’s first hit song, “Because of You,” would rise to popularity in 1951, with several hit songs such “Rags to Riches” right before in 1950. Tonys career would take a downturn during the rock music era but would make a comeback in the 90’s. He would put out a gold record album and would remain a popular recording artist and concert performer. Having won 19 grammy awards, and two Emmys, he has sold over 50 million records worldwide. 

Tony would grow up listening to Al Jolson, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby along with many jazz artists like Louis Armstrong and Joe Venuti. By the age of ten, Tony was singing and performing at local show businesses. He would study painting and music at New York’s School of Industrial Art, but would drop out at the age of 16 to help his father support his family. Eventually his music career would come to a pause in 1955 when the rock and roll era would begin and the dynamic for the music industry changed as it would become harder for existing musicians to do well. Bennett would eventually make a comeback and would rise to popularity in the early 1990’s as he would follow up many concerts with performances and appearances on TV shows such as MTV, Late Night with David Letterman and Late night with Conan O’Brien.

Bennett would make an altering record that would cater to the younger crown and would bridge the generation gap. He would connect with the rock crown in such a way that would make win him the Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.

Till this day Bennett has performed and released many duets with artists such as Carrie Underwood, Amy Winehouse, Queen Latifah and Lady Gaga. 

André will never forget the first time that he met Tony Bennett. He heard his delightful tunes through a door at a Beverly Hills Hotel, he remembers as it were yesterday, he was singing, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Tony would then open the door as André would be standing there, he would invite André in and allow him to listen to his music live and in person in his hotel room. André was just amazed at how he phrased his music and how he composed. Tony Bennett has been one of André greatest idols to have made such a positive impact in his singing career.

Artist Spotlight: Al Jarreau

Born March 12,1940, Alwin Lopez Jarreau, also known as “Al” was a Grammy winning American Singer and musician. Throughout his career, Al received a total of seven Grammy awards and was nominated for many more. Al is most well known for his best album, Breakin’ Away, which was released in 1981. He was among the performers of the 1985 charity song, “We are the World”.

Jarreau was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was the 5th of 6 children. He was raised by his father who was a Seventh-day adventist church minister and singer. Al and his siblings sang along with their mother, whom was a church pianist all throughout church benefits and concerts. Growing up, Jarreau attended Lincoln High School where he would then attend Ripon College and obtain his Bachelors degree in Psychology. Al would earn his Masters degree only two years later, in Vocational Rehabilitation from the University of Iowa in 1964.

In 1968 Al would venture south in hopes of some exposure having recently made jazz as his primary occupation. He received much exposure from the Johnny Carson Show, David First and Dinah Shore. He would perform at nightclubs and would perform in between acts of rising stars like John Belushi and Bette Midler. During this, Christian spirituality began influencing his work and he found much guidance through his lyrics at the time. In 1975 he would be working with pianist Tom Canning as he would be spotted by Warner Bros. Records. He would go on to perform on Saturday Night Live on Valentines Day 1976.

In 1978 he would win his first Grammy Award for best Jazz Vocal Performance for his recent album, ‘Look To The Rainbow’. He would reach much success with his most infamous album, Breakin’ Away in 1981 which would include his hit song, “We’re In This Love Together”. He would also win Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and reach 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and number 26 on the R&B chart.

Jarreau would tour and perform with Chick Corea, Kathleen Battle, Gregor Praecht, Miles Davis, George Duke, David Sanborn and George Benson. He would go on to perform on the broadway production of Grease in 1996. On March 6, 2001 he would receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He appeared on American Idol as part of a duet with Paris Bennett.

In 2010 Jarreau was hospitalized in a France hospital after having performed in Barcelonnette and was being treated for respiratory problems. Recently, on February 8th, 2017, after being hospitalized for exhaustion in Los Angeles, Jarreau cancelled the remainder of his 2017 tour. Due to respiratory failure, Al passed away at the age of 76, only two days after announcing his retirement.

To André, Al Jarreau was a great mentor that he greatly enjoyed meeting and enjoyed listening to as he grew. André saw his rhythm as “fascinating and moving”. This would greatly impact André, as he now moves crowds with his fascinating lyrics.

Artist Spotlight: Al Greene

Al Greene, or better known as Reverend Al Greene is a songwriter, record producer, and an American singer who is best known for recording many hit singles in the early 1970s. His hits include “Love and Happiness,” “Im still in Love with You,” and his most popular, “Let’s Stay Together.” In 1955, Al was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was seen as being one of the most gifted soul music artists. He is often referred to as one of “The Last Great Soul Singers.”

Born in Arkansas, he was the sixth of ten children, he was born on April 13,1946 as Albert Leornes Greene. Al started performing at the tender age of 10 with his brothers as part of a band called, The Greene Brothers. His family relocated to Michigan during his teen years and Al was then kicked out of his family when his father caught him listening to Jackie Wilson, having come from a religious background, his father prohibited him from listening to Jackie.

Greene would go on to listen to many gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson as well as the music that was important to him, such as Wilson Pickett and Elvis Presley. Al would perform in high school as part of a group called Al Greene and the Creations. Two of the groups members would create an independent label called Hot Line Music Journal. They would go on to record the song Back up Train and release it through the label. The song would later be a hit on the R&B charts.

Greenes place in soul music would be solidified when he would drop his most successful album, Let’s Stay Together. The track was the biggest to date and reached number one on both the billboard hot 100 and R&B charts. The album would become certified gold and his following albums would rock the top ten. His following album, Im Still in Love With You would reach platinum along with the help of such singles as “Look What You Done for Me” and the title track. His following album released in 1973, Livin’ for You was his final album to be certified gold.

Reverend Al Greene would release his first Gospel album in 1980 titled, The Lord Will Make a Way. The title song would later win him his first Grammy Award as the bet Gospel Soul Performance. Green would return to secular music in 1988 and would make a hit in 1989 with “The Message is Love” with producer Arthur Baker. Recently, Al Greene has been recording and in 2010 performed his most famous song “Lets Stay Together”.

Al Greene would become one of Andrés idols, his mother loved him as well. She would always mention that he had a silky-smooth voice. “I would listen to him over and over again. I would even get in the mirror and sing “Let’s Stay Together.” He had a unique sound, a soulful sound that I had not heard before. I remember seeing him on TV, he was the ultimate entertainer, I often thought he was looking at me. What I know, is that there is only one Al Greene, my hopes are that one day we will be on stage together. That would be a dream come true.”

Artist Spotlight: Thom Bell

Born on January 26, 1943, Thomas Randolph Bell, or better known as “Thom Bell,” is an American songwriter, arranger and producer born in Jamaica. Thom is best known as one of the creators of the Philadelphia style soul music within the 1970s.

Thom was trained as a musician, once he was classically trained as a musician growing up, he moved to Philadelphia as a teenager. He was inspired to sing with artists such as, Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Daryl Hall. It was in Philadelphia where Bell’s first big break would happen. His big break in soul music came from Cameo Records which was stationed in Philadelphia. He was then introduced to a local group called The Delfonics in 1967, and had then gone on to produce two singles for them on the label, Moonglow. His smooth and luscious style to soul music made for great display of his talents. He went on to use those production talents and be a part of large group hits for the Philly Groove Label. These hits included La-La (Means I Love You) and Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time), which were such a great hits that in 1970 they were nominated for a Grammy Award.

In 1971, Thom had moved into another local group and began producing for them, they were known as The Stylistics, which were part of Avco Records. Bell then teamed up with the Philadelphia songwriter known as, Linda Creed. This partnership then included Russel Tompkins, JR and the lead singers of The Stylistics, by teaming up with them, Bell then went ahead and helped them generate three albums with such memorable tracks. This would set Thom Bell and Linda Creed up to be one of the era’s dominant soul songwriting teams. This team would produce such hits like “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart),” “You Are Everything,” “Betcha by Golly, Wow,” “Break Up to Make Up,” and “You Make Me Feel Brand New”.

By 1972, Bell had then decided to move over to Atlantic Records and begin production with the group The Spinners. The group had been with Motown Records for a while, but later moved over to Atlantic Records after receiving very little attention. This huge collaboration with Thom Bell would successfully last for seven years and within those years they would create 8 original albums, to which five of those albums were gold and included many top chart hits such as “Mighty Love,” and “Ghetto Child”.

When 1975 rolled around, Thomas Bell was awarded a Grammy for Best Producer of the Year. Subsequently, Bell had much success within the R & B realm and went ahead to work on and continue creating such commercial appeal all the while still creating hit singles.

Thomas Bell has always been such an inspiration to André and his musical endeavors. Growing up listening to hits such as “Betcha By Golly Wow” would only push young André to later produce the song himself. The song is nothing short of a hit as, to why this song brings back such fond memories to André from when he was young. This heartfelt single will leave you with an attitude so positive and loving, that you cant help but to just smile when you listen to it.