Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nine Questions, Tucson Weekly, November 30, 2006

Nine Questions

Diane Van Deurzen
Diane Van Deurzen recorded her forthcoming debut CD, I Never Knew, in three days. The 42-year-old jazz-blues torch singer also teaches third grade and will marry pianist-singer Lisa Otey on Dec. 9. Van Deurzen will play two CD-release gigs in the coming weeks: Friday, Dec. 1, at Studio Connections Café, and Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Z Mansion. Call 370-5912 for details.


CD Release party and concert

Friday, Dec. 1
CD Release party and concert
Studio Connections Cafe
9071 E. Old Spanish Trail
donations will benefit the Studio Connections drama/art program

Sunday, Dec. 3
CD Release party and concert
Z Mansion
288 N. Church
champagne and hors d’ouvres reception
call 370.5912 for more information

Diane Van Deurzen’s debut CD, “I Never Knew”, is a celebration of love, passion and poetry. Diane dedicates her work to the memory of her father, Paul Van Deurzen, a Dutch immigrant who taught Diane about the wonder of things and the importance of hard work. He also gave her a love for music.

He would wake Diane and her seven siblings every morning, singing Mario Lanza’s “Be My Love” before heading out to the paper mill in Combine Locks, Wisconsin, where he worked from the age of 11 until his death at age 63. He only missed two days of work, time he took to heal after falling into a manhole and breaking two ribs. He worked hard to provide for his family. Even after a long day in extremely harsh conditions, Diane’s father would whistle as he walked home. She would meet him at the curb and together they would sing the rest of the way home, hand in hand.

From the time she was a young girl, Diane’s father played records for her and encouraged her to sing along to the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Shirley Horn, and Etta James. Her father was her greatest supporter, attending as many of her performances as he could. When Diane started to sing professionally, he was also her greatest promoter, telling everyone at the mill and the supermarket and the pharmacy to hire his daughter to sing for their weddings and parties.

Diane pays tribute to her father in the song, “That Lucky Old Sun”, and celebrates the great singers he introduced her to with songs like “A Sunday Kind of Love”, “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” and “Exactly Like You”.

Equal to Diane’s love for music is her love for poetry. Diane’s first grade teacher taught her class to read using the picture books of poet Eric Carle. She would sing the poems to her students. Her teacher brought the words to life so beautifully, Diane didn’t need to look at the pictures in the book. The words from her teacher’s lips would paint pictures in her mind, inspiring her to write poetry of her own. Diane collected pictures from magazines, mostly of flowers, plants, and trees, but also of people expressing passion and intense sorrow. She taped these pictures into her journal and wrote poems about them.

When Diane was in third grade, she discovered the poetry of Langston Hughes, after seeing his poem “Dream” on the wall of the principal’s office. Her principal would also leave poetry books on the table for students to read while they waited to see her. Diane wanted to read more but wasn’t allowed to check out books at that level from the library. She would sneak over to the sixth grade section, sit in the corner, and savor the words of Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, and, later, Maya Angelou.

Poetry and music always went hand in hand for Diane. She says, “Poetry has verse, has rhythm, creates motion, and paints a picture. It is a song.” “I Never Knew” includes two of Diane’s poems- the title track and “Walk My Honey Path”, a botanical lesson on love. Both poems were set to music by Lisa Otey, who co-produced the CD with Diane on Otey’s label, Owl’s Nest Productions. They sing “I Never Knew” together and are joined by more of the Desert Divas on “Walk My Honey Path.” Diva Hurricane Carla also contributed an original song for Diane, “A Song That Can Never Be Sung.”

Passion is the essence of Diane’s life, her work, her music, and her poetry. She approaches every moment with enthusiasm and sensuality, noticing every detail, and embracing every opportunity to express her creativity. Diane co-produced this summer’s musical cabaret, “Hot Love.”

She designed the set, creating an atmosphere of intimacy and romance from the audience to the stage. She contributed six of her poems to the script and sang her way into the hearts of all who attended. That same feeling of intimacy and passion is present in “I Never Knew.” Diane takes us on a journey of romantic ballads, discovering and embracing our heart’s desire, to heartwrenching torch songs, lamenting a love that can never be, to tributes to her favorite jazz and blues singers, Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James. Backed by Lisa Otey, piano; Steve Grams, bass; and Fabrice Bessouat, drums, Diane embraces her audience with her sweet, sultry, and oh, so sophisticated sound and walks us down her honey path to a place we never knew.