Barely five minutes into an increasingly intimate phone conversation, Diane Schuur breaks into tears. Twice. The first time is when she discusses the death of her 31-year-old mother in 1967, about three years after Schuur, then 11, went professional.
“I kept on going,” says the singer, who asks to be addressed by her nickname, Deedles. “Mama was no longer around, and I had to be one of the breadwinners. I was blind at birth, and my twin brother overcame a hearing deficit that might have also been part of the birth thing. I had a choice. I could have just stayed in Puyallup, Wash. — one of the places I lived after my brother and his wife got married — or gone on to do the things I’ve done. I made the choice, and never looked back.”
Deedles, who appears this week at San Francisco’s Rrazz Room, touches on her “amazing journey.” It includes 18 years as a recovered alcoholic, “very scary” potentially voice-impairing neck surgery for degenerative disc disease, and her current work “from the inside out” with a lifelong eating disorder.
As she expresses her gratitude “for the life I’ve lived, the things that I have done, the things I’m able to do, and the fact that this record is impacting people in a really, really good way,” she breaks down again.
“Just to be able to feel the emotions of all that is really kind of neat,” she says. “It’s just really really neat.”
So is her new album, “Some Other Time,” a collection of standards she learned from jazz recordings her parents played during her childhood and adolescence. It features great renditions of songs by the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Sammy Cahn, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Vernon Duke and others.
The penultimate track, “September in the Rain,” was recorded by an instantly recognizable, surprisingly deep-voiced babe at the Holiday Inn in Tacoma in 1964 when Deedles was all of 10 years old. The tribute CD ends with “Danny Boy,” fulfilling a promise she made to her mom to record the song.
For an artist whose last Billboard chart topper was a 1994 collaborative recording with B.B. King, the disc represents the triumph of an indomitable spirit. The voice seems untouched by age, the ballads quite moving, the break into irresistible swing — catch the ending to “Blue Skies” and the middle of “Without a Song” — positively ecstatic.
IF YOU GO
Where: Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $40 to $45
Contact: (866) 468-3399 or www.therrazzroom.com