ON "SCHUUR THING," Diane Schuur's voice invites comparison, and the references to such singers as Dinah Washington and Phoebe Snow are invariably flattering. Schuur has a remarkable voice -- a supple, soulful and genuinely expressive soprano. It deserves to be recorded in a less commercially minded setting than we find on "Schuur Thing," but even here the singer triumphs.
Besides featuring a couple of attractive duets with Jose Feliciano, the album reunites Schuur, also a pianist, with number one booster Stan Getz, whose seductive saxophone just happens to be the perfect playmate for her on ballads. Guitarist Lee Rittenour is also on the guest list, and the arrangements by Dave Grusin take dead aim at the pop-jazz market.
The warmth and ease with which Schuur embraces a wide range of material -- spanning feathery ballads ("Love Dance"), Ellingtonia (a scatted rendition of "It Don't Mean a Thing") and gospel-drenched funk ("Take Me to the River") -- make "Schuur Thing" a sure bet, even for a listener generally bored silly by pop jazz.
Meredith d'Ambrosio can always be counted on to pack her albums with splendid songs, and her new release, "It's Your Dance," is no exception. The album is bursting at the seams with warm, wonderful, intelligent songs from the likes of Jerome Kern, Vernon Duke, Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg. The list goes on to include d'Ambrosio herself, for her own songs, particularly ruminative ballads like "Once Upon a Teapot," have a gentle, persuasive charm and clearly rank among the album's highlights.
Although her voice is a modest instrument, soft and wistful, d'Ambrosio often uses it with great cunning, making her lyrics sound like whispered confidences, especially on the cautionary tales "Listen Little Girl" and "Miss Harper Goes Bizarre." As always, d'Ambrosio's piano accompaniment is as understated as her vocals, but when additional color or greater rhythmic momentum is required, pianist Harold Danko and guitarist Kevin Eubanks respond accordingly.
DIANE SCHUUR -- "Schuur Thing" (GRP 1022); performing with Ray Charles and the New American Orchestra Sunday at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
MEREDITH D'AMBROSIO -- "It's Your Dance" (Sunnyside SSC 1011); appearing Friday through Sunday at the King of France Tavern.