Stolen Moments: The Lady Sings…Jazz And Blues (1993)

“No use, old girl…you may as well surrender…”

Though Diana Ross’s career with jazz music essentially began and ended with 1972’s Lady Sings The Blues (the Oscar-nominated film and #1 soundtrack album), certain songs from that project had remained a big part of her repertoire.  She always included a segment in her live shows devoted to Billie Holiday songs, and 1977’s stage spectacular An Evening With Diana Ross had contained a larger tribute to female jazz and blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters.  Still, a full album or show devoted to the genre is something many fans must have been craving for years, and it finally happened two decades after she first shocked listeners into realizing how well she was suited such music.

Stolen Moments: The Lady Sings…Jazz And Blues is the recording of a one-night-only live show at the Ritz Theatre in New York; the show took place in December 1992, and this album hit shelves in early 1993.  The performance was also filmed, shown first as a Pay-Per-View television special, then released to home video.  In an article from the British newspaper The Independent (written by Phil Johnson, published Monday, April 26, 1993), Miss Ross is quoted as saying, “What I wanted was to do a tiny little show in a jazz club in New York with just a small audience. It wasn’t to be publicised but it kind of developed a life of its own.  The record companies got their noses into it and they wanted to film it, so that took it away from a small club and into a slightly larger room. Because it wasn’t planned and we didn’t have a lot of time, there’s a lot of improvising and going from memory and I’m very pleasantly surprised at the reaction.”

And reaction was pretty good; after two less-than-stellar showings on the US charts with Workin’ Overtime and The Force Behind The Power (her first two studio albums back on the Motown record label after a stint with RCA Records), this album returned Diana to the top 10 — this time, on the jazz album charts (she’d get there again years later with the release of Blue, the “lost album” from 1972).  Considering Miss Ross was 30 years into her hit-making career when this album was released (“When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” was her first top 40 hit with the Supremes in 1963), it’s amazing how smooth she often sounds on the recording (especially in light of her hoarse, barely-coasting performance on 1989’s international live album Greatest Hits Live).

The Independent article notes that “Ross hasn’t allowed her voice to deepen and sometimes it appears to strain for the sound of a vocal ingenue…,” and this is accurate to an extent.  Some of the songs indeed could have been moved down a key or two, but a deepness and maturity are certainly on full display with songs like “God Bless The Child” and the nearly a capella “Strange Fruit,” which are absolutely masterful.  The album tends to run a little long, and it would’ve been nice to get a few more new songs rather than pretty much the same lineup as the Lady Sings The Blues soundtrack, but it’s hard to find a whole lot of fault with a recording on which Diana Ross is clearly doing something she really wants to do, and doing it well.

***

1.  Fine And Mellow:  Miss Ross opens the show with this bluesy number, one appropriately written by Billie Holiday and originally recorded in 1939.  It’s a nice way to open the show, as it allows Diana’s voice to ease into the evening; the song doesn’t require her to push too much and is repetitive by nature, and in a way you can hear Diana “warming up” for the rest of the show.

2.  Them There Eyes:  A much more relaxed version of this song than what was originally featured on the Lady Sings The Blues soundtrack; back in 1972, Diana had sung this song with a girlish enthusiasm, and here it’s much more low-key and “mellow.”  Diana sounds nice on the song, though she doesn’t do much more than sing it as written; it serves more as a chance to show her interplay with the absolutely stellar band.  As on much of the songs throughout the album, Miss Ross allows the musicians to shine every bit as much as she does, and the instrumental break here is an exciting sign of things to come.

3.  Don’t Explain:  Diana announces this song as “one of my favorite songs this evening,” and it’s clear that she loves it, as she still frequently performs it in concert to this day.  This is the first case so far of Diana really “biting” into a lyric; it’s also a nice example of how her voice has matured since she first recorded this music in 1972.  Here, Miss Ross sings with the smooth resignation of a woman in love with someone who treats her badly; her voice conveys a sadness without ever being over-dramatic or obvious.  Again, the band sounds superb, giving Miss Ross a perfect a music bed to lay her vocal on.  Listen at 3:25, as she begins, “You know that I love you…” — in a way, she almost sounds more like Billie Holiday now than she did in 1972; her voice reflects more seasoning and use, and there a few more “imperfections” here…much in the way Billie’s recordings often displayed hers.  This is certainly an album standout.

4.  What A Little Moonlight Can Do:  The energy picks back up for a swinging, bassy version of this jazz classic; Diana’s own energy seems to be picking up, too, and her vocal here is a little looser and more “free” than on the previous songs.  Diana generously continues calling out the musicians as they swing through their solos, and at 3:05 in, when she goes for the lyric, “…can’t resist him…,” she really starts sounding like a true jazz singer, her voice lightly bouncing up and down the scale.  At the end of the song, once the band brings it home and the audience applauds, Miss Ross does the strange sort of “brrrrr” sound that she’d used on her song “Shockwaves” from Red Hot Rhythm & Blues; though the sound might seem insignificant, it’s a spontaneous, amusing moment that’s out of character for the usually more-poised live performer, and I think proof that she was starting to feel really good on stage singing these songs.

5.  Mean To Me:  This is a real treat, since “Mean To Me” appeared in a very truncated version of the original Lady soundtrack (it was used in the film during a scene in which Billie Holiday fainted while singing, and thus Diana never performed the entire thing).  Because most of this album is comprised of songs from that earlier film, this is a nice change and something “new” for longtime fans.  Along with that, it’s a really good song — it’s a bouncy number on the vein of “Them There Eyes,” and Diana’s vocal here is lighter and more energetic than it had been when she’d done that song just a few minutes earlier.  Unfortunately, this is one of the shortest numbers of the evening, and runs under three minutes, but it’s still a nice change of pace from songs likely a little more familiar to listeners.

6.  Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be):  Diana uses this song to do one of her favorite things — walk out into the audience and sing to the people directly.  There’s a lot of laughing and giggling from the excited crowd; clearly she was “flirting” with the folks, and they were eating it up.  Diana makes a point to mention that this is “our very first time doing this show” — a nice reminder to listeners that this wasn’t a necessarily well-rehearsed effort between singer and band, which makes the overall smoothness of the show all the more impressive.  That said, Diana makes a little flub at the beginning of the song, singing the words, “Someday he’ll come along…” — not a line from this song, but from “The Man I Love.”  Still, she carries it off like the pro that she is; people unfamiliar with this song wouldn’t have a clue that she altered the lyrics.  She also, endearingly, loses pitch for the last line; listen as she shakily sings the final words, waiting for the band to come in and help her out.  These little moments are actually enjoyable; they make the recording real, and again drive home the point about this being a “one-off” show that’s really a labor of love for everyone on the stage.

7.  Gimme A Pigfoot (And A Bottle Of Beer):  A rousing number that Miss Ross has frequently performed over the years, she ably sings it and get the crowd to clap along to the swinging beat.  More than anything, though, this is a showcase for the outstanding musicians on stage; the jazz legends get plenty of time to really let go, and they sound terrific.

8.  Little Girl Blue:  Another real treat of the album; Diana didn’t perform this Rodgers and Hart classic in Lady Sings The Blues, but rather included it on her 1973 album Touch Me In The Morning.  It was that album’s real highlight, one of the most sensitive and impressive Diana Ross performances of her early Motown years, if not her entire career; as I wrote about that performance, “…aside from the technical aspects of her performance, there is something indefinable about the way Diana Ross sings ‘Little Girl Blue’ that lifts it far above an ordinary piece of album filler.”  This live performance doesn’t quite match that recorded masterpiece; the acoustic guitar work on the 1973 version was a key to its success and it’s missing here, which means it doesn’t quite stand out amongst the surrounding songs the way one might hope.  Still, Diana sounds great; she sings it in the same key as she had 20 years earlier, and her voice really shows no wear at all.

9.  There’s A Small Hotel:  Another surprise inclusion; this is a Rodgers and Hart song that Miss Ross had recorded more than two decades earlier for the 1967 album The Supremes Sing Rodgers & Hart (the final LP credited to The Supremes, before the group name became Diana Ross & The Supremes).  The song, however, was cut from the LP…and remained unreleased for many years.  Diana’s performance here is simple and refreshing; the light, upbeat song is a perfect fit for her airy vocals.  Listen, for example, to her beginning at 2:12, with the line, “We’ll thank that small hotel…” — there’s a relaxed confidence and ease to her singing that really is befitting a woman with such a long, storied career.  This is a lovely highlight of the show.

10.  I Cried For You:  Miss Ross returns to the songs of Lady Sings The Blues with this Billie Holiday classic; though the key is a little high, Diana manages to keep her voice bouncing from note to note with a slightly brassy sound that almost mimics the horn work behind her.  Just ten seconds in, as she sings the song’s title, her voice really does sound like a trumpet; in a strange way, forcing her voice a little higher works to an advantage in making her sound more like part of the band.  This isn’t perhaps a great vocal performance, but it’s an interesting listen.

11.  The Man I Love:  This is a much more playful performance than her recording of the same song on 1989’s Greatest Hits Live; Diana takes her time with the song, letting her voice slide up and down the scale with a sexiness and wistful quality well-suited to the lyrics.  The band plays along with her, as does the audience; there’s obviously some interplay going on, and Miss Ross throws out a few comments, like her “Don’t you move!” at 4:20 in, which are fun to hear.  That spontaneity and intimate feel is what really sets this version apart from other Ross recordings of this song; Diana’s enjoyment — and that of the audience — is clear and makes this a joy to hear.  (This track was left off international versions of this recording, perhaps because it had already shown up on the release of Greatest Hits Live.)

12.  God Bless The Child:  Miss Ross begins the song by introducing pianist Bobby Tucker, who she mentions had played with Billie Holiday; the connection instantly quiets the mood and prepares the listener for a powerful moment in the show.  Indeed, this is easily one of Miss Ross’s best vocals of the night; her voice is controlled and focused, but there’s also an emotional complexity here that gives her performance a real depth and gravitas.  At one-minute into the running time, Diana sings the words, “…that’s got his own” with an almost sad sort of resignation that captures the spirit of Billie Holiday in an instant.  The song also gives her a chance to show off the lower and upper ends of her vocal range; she sounds wise and mature when mining the lower parts, and that almost horn-like quality re-emerges on the higher bridge, her voice beautifully jumping back and forth between notes with ease.  This song is really what the entire concert is all about; Diana proves herself a gifted jazz and blues singer here, worthy of performing with a band full of genre masters.

13.  Love Is Here To Stay:  This song was one of the sterling highlights of the double-LP soundtrack; it’s not as successful here, mainly because it’s following such an emotional highlight.  Diana and the band swing along nicely, but the barely-two-minute song is a strange way to follow “God Bless The Child” and ultimately seems a little unnecessary.

14.  You’ve Changed:  Diana’s rendition of “You’ve Changed” back in 1972 gained notice for echoing Billie Holiday’s so closely; Miss Ross had managed to find a brittle quality that matched Holiday’s haunting work on the song.  Her performance here is extremely effective, too; she sings along with only a piano, setting a quiet, somber tone that will continue into the next performance.  Diana’s voice here is crisp and clear, each word ringing out over the audience like a short gust of wind, and the end result is an atmospheric and other-worldly performance.  It’s a perfect way to ground the show after the light “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” in preparation for the devastating next selection.

15.  Strange Fruit:  Diana Ross’s nearly a capella version of this song is a masterpiece; this is one of the great vocal performances of her career.  The song, recorded by Billie Holiday is 1939, is a lyrical and disturbing account of the lynching of African-Americans; graphic lines like “…the bulging eyes and twisted mouth…” and “…the sudden smell of burning flesh…” are difficult to listen to, but Diana’s captivating vocal performance is completely hypnotizing.  Because only a faint piano backs her at times, the focus here is solely on the voice and words.  Miss Ross is in full command of her interpretive gift here; she sings the words simply, never becoming over-dramatic, and notice the way she allows each lyrics its own measure of importance.  There’s not a single “throw away” word or line here; Diana clearly understands the power of this song, and smartly takes away any possible distraction.  This is a performance of intense power and emotion; it is definitive proof of Ross’s abilities as a vocalist.  Though she’d proven on recordings like “Home” and “Missing You” that she’s capable of a deep, raw power when belting ballads, here she allows the space between the words to do much of the work, and it’s an eerie and unforgettable listening experience.

16.  Good Morning Heartache:  Perhaps the most famous song from the 1972 Lady… soundtrack, this was a top 40 single for Ross that year and is still a song identified with her.  This is a nice performance of the song, although she seems a little affected on the delivery of some of the lyrics; the key is also a bit too high for her now, and she again sounds a little brassy — especially on the bridge — and, in this case, the sound doesn’t quite work as well as it has previously.  Still, it’s nice to hear her turn in a live performance of a single that wasn’t as big a hit as something like “Upside Down” or “Love Hangover,” and the recognition factor allows the listener a bit of a chance to recover from the emotional number that preceded it.

17.  Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do:  One of the bluesier tunes of the night, this is also one that’s strangely missing lacking a spark and some passion.  The lyrics here are pointedly defiant, telling the listener “…I’m gonna do what I want to anyway; I don’t care just what people say…,” and it seems like Diana should have a little more swagger when delivering such sentiments.  Perhaps at this point in the evening Diana was winding down a little, which is understandable.

18.  My Man:  One of the signature songs from Lady…, this is also a song that Diana had made a big part of her repertoire since her late-Supremes days.  When she’s “on” with the song — as she was on the original soundtrack LP — she sounds glorious; when she’s not quite there, she can sometimes push a little too hard on the song, throwing in lines and affectations that kill the mood.  I’d say this performance, thankfully, is closer to the “on” side of the spectrum; her voice doesn’t quite nail the song as powerfully as she’s capable of doing, but she still sounds good.  The biggest issue is probably one of musical key, again; at times, there is an audible strain here, and it’s especially noticeable toward the climax of the song.  She manages to hit all the notes, though, much to her credit — after all, the song comes after a long evening of singing — and it is a nice closing number.

19.  Fine And Mellow (Reprise):  After yelling, “Great show!” Miss Ross sings a few lines from her opening number again, before letting the band swing it on home.

***

As noted before, if there’s a fault with this album, it’s that it runs a little too long; had four or five numbers been cut, it would have quickened the pace here and allowed the really strong moments more of a chance to shine.  Some of the songs (i.e. “What A Little Moonlight Can Do”) really weren’t big standouts on the 1972 film soundtrack, and thus don’t seem that necessary here.  The surprise inclusions (“Mean To Me,” “Little Girl Blue,” and “There’s A Small Hotel”) are great finds for fans who are a bit tired of more familiar tunes that had featured heavily in Ross shows over the years, and it’s a shame there aren’t more of them.

International versions of this show also included the studio recording of an original jazz song called “Where Did We Go Wrong,” co-written by Miss Ross herself.  She’s quoted in The Independent article as saying, “I had been working on some other projects and was sitting making notes for songs and I put some thoughts on a tape and sent them to my friend Bill Wray, saying, ‘Don’t you dare let anyone hear these thoughts.’  It was very personal.  He took all these words and shuffled them around and sent them back to me.  I’m very proud of it.”  The song is a wonderful showcase for Miss Ross, similar in sound and structure to “Don’t Explain,” and it’s a mystery as to why it was left off the US-lineup; had it been included (and, as noted before, a few other songs left off), it would have elevated this to the level of some of Ross’s best complete works ever.  Still, when Diana Ross shines here, she really shines, and thankfully there are enough of those stunning moments here to make the concert and recording more than worthwhile.

Final Analysis:  4/5 (A “Fine And Mellow” Recording)

Choice Cuts:  “Strange Fruit,” “God Bless The Child,” “There’s A Small Hotel”

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About Paul

Album-by-album, track-by-track, a look at the entire Diana Ross discography...
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23 Responses to Stolen Moments: The Lady Sings…Jazz And Blues (1993)

  1. Tony says:

    Good Morning ….. everyone and certainly NO HEARTACHE! This is Diana Ross. Now I feel she is calling to her more mature audience. She reaches back —- way back to her solo roots. This album is nothing more than a reminder that Diana is a serious performer/artist/ songstrist /vocalist. The last (TFBTP) album slowly re- introduced us to her real voice. This album – hit us over the head with her depth- “classic Diana. ” This, I would compare to the Strisand stunt I refer to as ” the “Classical Barbra.” This is an album which was an attempt to show the world – Barbra is a classic. I believe it was a mid 70’s release. Diana intended to do the same. It was clear she was done with the fun fluffy stuff of the 80’s. Diana Ross needed to prove ,again, she was a force – and a legend- able to sing on the melody !

    Her voice is back and un tampered with. LOVE IT like this. I really enjoy “Little Girl Blue” – STRANGE FRUEIT – and – You’ve changed. Over all I love the album. I do not believe it was supposed to be a “little thing” performance. I BELIEVE THIS WAS A MASTERFUL MOVE TO SHOW SHE HAD AN CLASSY – ELEGANT TALENT —— AND GIFT – to share.

    Paul —- You describe the songs and her performance with incredible finesse ! Excellent writing style! THANK YOU !

    • Paul says:

      Tony — thanks for the kind words, as always. You’re right — the Diana Ross here is so much more seasoned and mature than the one of just 6 or 7 years earlier. She sounds so natural singing these classic tunes, and the reason is that she’s an “elegant talent” as you say — she never oversings the song, or makes the focus about HER. It’s about the music and lyrics, always.

  2. markus says:

    Another great review, Paul!!! of course, it’s easier to feel that way when I almost totally agree with you…LOL 😉
    I must say, I usually end up watching the DVD in lieu of listening to the CD, so your review from a purely audio perspective does shed a bit of light for me (i.e. when just listening to the songs your bound to focus more closely on details in the vocal).
    I was surprised to find you were a bit more critical of it than I normally am, but your observations (particularly about a couple of the arrangements being a bit too high) are spot on, and again, become more clear when considering the audio only.

    Here’s my review of the DVD on Amazon (which, BTW, I also gave 4 out of 5 stars).

    Diana Finds Her Voice…, September 19, 2011

    This review is from: Diana Ross Live – The Lady Sings… Jazz & Blues (Stolen Moments) (DVD)
    I’ve never really thought of Diana Ross as a great jazz singer- after Lady Sings the Blues, after this live show originally done as a Pay-Per-View event back in 1992 (I still remember the price- it was $19.95), even after the recently unearthed Blue album. I still don’t think of her as a jazz singer, but this not a dig to her. She is, when all is said and done, a fine pop singer with a very unique instrument, possessing both R&B and jazz sensibilities. As a result, although technically she is not a “jazz singer”, per se, she can “sing jazz”. And as this DVD proves, she does it quite capably.

    R&B legends who tackle jazz often inflect their interpretations with elements of their respective backgrounds. Diana, for all her Motown glory, is essentially a pop singer, and it reflects in her performances here. They are fairly straight-ahead; rarely does she deviate or embellish the classics she covers. What shines through is how she navigates a large, fairly wide-ranging set list with such remarkable ease. And in the process provides necessary emotional texture to the songs. Many of these are songs she first sang in 1972. Here she sounds light years more confident in herself and the material. She swings on “Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer)”, has a dramatic highpoint with “My Man” and delivers a spine-tingling, near a cappella rendition of “Strange Fruit”. Here she digs and comes up with something to remind doubters that she is, in fact, a vocalist of substance and considerable ability.

    The “Blues” numbers aren’t all that bluesy, but with the clear, precise instrument that is Diana’s voice, heartbreak always did come through a bit more refined, more composed. “God Bless the Child” is a perfect example.

    Providing immeasurable aid in the overall great quality of the music is a band packed with legends and masters in the genre, including bassist Ron Carter, Barry Harris and Bobby Tucker (Billie Holiday’s pianist) at piano, Urbie Greene on trombone, John Faddis, Roy Hargrove and old Motown collaborator Gil Askey on trumpet, and so on.

    If you’re put off by the glitz factor of Miss Ross the visuals may not help- she still in a bit of an 80’s Bob Mackie/Nolan Miller hangover, and spends the bulk of the evening sparkling. Literally. But the stage presence she was able to effectively convey for decades (and would continue to do so) is on full display. If any audience member was dragged there by a partner against his/her will, it’s tough to tell here. They’re in the palm of her hand.

    The DVD is void of extras, although its packaged decently and Diana herself adds a bit of an extra with a brief interview and backstory at the beginning of the show. Usually priced affordably, this is really more than worth the money if you are- at the very least- a casual fan of Ross. If you’re more than that, this becomes a must-have. This is a pop singer who is welcome to sing some jazz anytime.

    • Paul says:

      Beautifully written review — thank you for posting here! This is so well-said: “They are fairly straight-ahead; rarely does she deviate or embellish the classics she covers. What shines through is how she navigates a large, fairly wide-ranging set list with such remarkable ease.” I think this is why Diana’s music often ages so well — it doesn’t sound dated because she never tried to do anything more than interpret her songs as written.

  3. wayne2710 says:

    Spot on again Paul !
    An often overlooked, if not sometimes forgotten cd, but really one of the finest releases of her career that seems to demonstrate perfectly just what an incredible vocalist and perfomer she really is. I wish she would do more of this type of recording, it seems such a waste of her talents not to. I’d love for her to drop some of the hits from her act and replace them with standards, songs that really stretch her, and I agree totally that it’s a shame she didn’t include some different songs on here that weren’t from Lady. For instance I’d love for her to sing Didn’t We again. Her performance of it on Farewell is possibly in my top 10 moments of her output. I’ve often wondered what became of the Harold Arlen cd she alledgedly recorded around this time.
    My own personal highlights from this set are Lover Man, Little Girl Blue, You’ve Changed and obviously Strange Fruit.

    • Paul says:

      Oh, man — if ONLY she’d done “Didn’t We.” I agree — her performance on the Farewell LP is masterful. In fact, I really love the entire Farewell double LP — Diana was in amazing voice from start to finish, and the record really captures the excitement of Diana Ross’s life and career-changing move.

      • Tony says:

        Didn’t We ….is a masterpiece. I would play the ending of that song from the farewell album – over and over again. I would visualize what she was doing as she moaned and cooed at the end of that song. Very memorable for me. Would it be great if that album came out on DVD!!!!!

      • Julius Maloney says:

        Lord ‘Farewell’ is still one of my treasured records…that whole side of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine…another release I want so bad on CD!

        This along with ‘An Evening With…’, TCB & GIT On Broadway(I knew The Leading Lady Medley backwards & forwards) I just played to death as a teenager (you can’t imagine how cool I was. XD). These were the records that just cemented my adoration of Miss Ross!!!

      • Paul says:

        I LOVE “Farewell” too — what a great recording! Diana was at her best, as she was on “Evening…” years later. When she’s “on” during a live show, there is nobody who can top her.

  4. Mikel Patrik says:

    Yes, yes, YES. GREAT review.

  5. spookyelectric says:

    Thanks again Paul for your dedication to this project. I’m really enjoying revisiting Diana’s back catalogue again week by week with your write ups.

    This is one I never gave as much time as the others. I watched the VHS (remember those?) a couple of times when it came out and only really ever pulled out the cd for ‘There’s A Small Hotel’. I’d usually go back to the original ‘Lady’ soundtrack if I wanted to hear these songs. So I was surprised when you picked up on Diana messing up the opening line of ‘Lover Man’ – I’d never noticed that – I guess because as you say she recovers so effortlessly.

    Listening again, I find her performances of many of the songs – ‘You’ve Changed’ in particular – very moving. It’s that purity and clarity Diana still has in her tone – what she can do when she has a great song and arrangement that suits her! – even many years after she first sang these songs. To think since rejoining Motown she’d done brash and youthful swingbeat, then mushy Adult Contemporary and then went ‘back to basics’ for real for her Billie days from two decades earlier. Now that’s some range! I don’t think any of her contemporaries could pull that one off.

    I can’t find fault this album in and of itself. I would say as part of her catalogue it’s less than essential just because the material – apart from the few you mentioned – had all been released before and I don’t really think this brings anything radically new to them. It’s a pity her takes on ‘Let’s Fall In Love’ and and ‘What A Wonderful World’ from the show weren’t tighter as they would have made welcome new additions I think.

    I always forget about ‘Where Did We Go Wrong’ tucked away at the end of the album. Very nice. It’s a bit too much of a pastiche as a song I think (the lyrics for a start – talk about stolen moments!) to be truly great, but her performance is excellent. Actually makes me wish she’d done a whole new studio album in this mode – maybe mixing some jazz standards she’d never recorded before with strong brand new compositions that fitted the mood (Leonard Cohen gave her a great one a few years earlier with ‘Summertime’). That would have been something.

    • Paul says:

      Yes — her 2nd stint with Motown is astonishing in its wide range of material! From the New Jack Swing of “Workin’ Overtime” to the big ballads of “Force…” — on to this jazz project — and, next up, a live album with two opera tenors and then a #1 dance hit! I’ll be talking a little about this genre-jumping in the “Christmas In Vienna” review coming up next. Who else can claim so many hits on so many different formats?

      Funny you mention you wishing she’d done a studio album like this — I just wrote the same thing YESTERDAY when jotting down my thoughts on “I Thought That We Were Still In Love” from TMH! Had that great song, “Where Did We Go Wrong” and some others ended up on a smooth jazz-oriented studio project, I bet it would have been amazing!

    • markus says:

      good point about “Where Did We Go Wrong”, Spooky. I like the song but it does often sound like random thoughts fragmented together (which, based on the story of its’ making, appears to be what happened!). In a pop or R&B song that probably wouldnt fly, but since classic jazz songs often have a more loose structure Diana gets away with it. But yes, a full album of classics mingled with “new” jazz songs would’ve been a nice idea.

  6. spookyelectric says:

    There was actually an album Vanessa Williams recorded around this time called ‘The Sweetest Days’. I remember thinking when it came out ‘this is the best album Diana Ross never made.’ It wasn’t a jazz covers type project in the way I was thinking the other day, but just a very solid AC collection with an acoustic vibe and touches of latin and jazz, a couple of Babyface productions to give it a modern (at the time) edge. For some reason Vanessa always reminded me a little of Diana – like her, her approach was more about tone and colour than runs and riffing. Composed and classy.

    • Paul says:

      I agree — Vanessa Williams is a singer very much in the Diana-vein, as she really “acts” her songs rather than show off or embellish them with unnecessary vocal tricks. I’m not a huge Vanessa fan, but I’ve always liked her work and thought several of her songs could have fit Diana well, too.

  7. chris meklis says:

    Your writing gets better and better- brilliant analysis Paul. I think this show was perfect and disagree that the CD is too long…in fact I could have done with a tad more.
    I would have loved Diana to have sung Confide In Me (From Baby It’s Me), it is already quite jazzy, and a fresh arrangement for this show could have been interesting.

  8. Julius Maloney says:

    I have always found ‘Stolen Moments’ a difficult project to leap for joy at its existence.

    …and though I love the performance in Lady Sings the Blues, Miss Ross & Jazz leaves me cold. And the funny thing is I love vocal Jazz. I love Billie Holiday she is one of my very favorite artists as are Lady Ella, Sarah & Dinah too. As ‘Lady in Satin’ is one of my dessert island discs I can only ever hear Holiday putting over ‘You’ve Changed’ for example no matter who the singer.

    I own ‘Blue’ & ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ Soundtrack and rarely (if ever) listen to them all the way through. I had this release on VHS (yes I remember those) and remember being bored out of my mind just waiting for a Supremes medley (or dear god anything to break the monotony).

    But today I re-listened to this record, and perhaps it’s the live setting, perhaps where my mind is at right this minute, perhaps Paul it’s after reading through your review which gave me a better reading of this recording. Or perhaps I’m just a touch older & wiser & hearing Miss Ross in this setting just tickles my fancy?

    Who knows, but what I do know is I feel a little more inclined to Miss Ross & Jazz than before & although I might not suddenly have these particular discs on heavy rotation it has given me an opportunity to re-think that period of the Ross cannon.

    …and you know there is a lightness & forgiveness in Diana’s reading of ‘You’ve Changed’ which makes it almost new…

    • Julius Maloney says:

      I wanted to add a postscript to my earlier post. As I realize that the final line was a little more than flippant, because I haven’t stopped listening to this album since I put it on this afternoon.

      I would never consider myself a Jazz afficianado in any way shape or form. As I get older however I have come to really love it as a style of music, very much.

      As an example it took me a very long time to appreciate the early sides of Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson & his Orchestra over the later Verve sides. But I couldn’t imagine my soundtrack without them now.

      So in regards to ‘Stolen Moments’ maybe it is a better knowledge of Jazz learnt over the years or that it really is the fact that this was a one off event or whatever the reason but in an afternoon I’ve done full 180 degree about face on this record.

      I hear the passion for the music, Miss Ross’ breathtaking take on a number of tracks (my favorite being Strange Fruit, so clear & pure an interpretation on a subject of race where Miss Ross has been critisized for glossing over through her career. Listening to this should answer critics). I agree that there are arrangements set a little high (My Man most pointedly for me). My other favorites are ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do’ (but I’m a sucker for Fats Waller). YES! ‘You’ve Changed’ is beautiful, so different from Holiday. My final favorite is ‘Don’t Explain’ it is the pop sensibility brought to this song that makes it distinct from branding it entirely part of ‘The Billie Holiday Songbook’ (perhaps it is also his styling that lifts ‘You’ve Changed’ to another place).

      A superlative record that has gone right to the top of my Diana Ross heart records… Who’da Thunk It!

  9. Pingback: Forever Diana: Musical Memoirs (1993) « The Diana Ross Project

  10. bokiluis says:

    I have such great memories of this night. It was to be a 20th Anniversary salute to “Lady Sings the Blues”. The movie opened in October 1972 while the “Stolen Moments” evening was held in December 1992. If you lived in the New York City area, the commercials were inescapable. Initially, I thought it was going to be a jazz influenced concert with a nod to “Lady Sings the Blues” and not actually the 20th Anniversary of that wildly successful album/movie. The commercials showed her with a new short haircut (so it was a little surprising when she came down the stairs in her now, well known “Boss”-like mane). I even remember getting excited when she included “Little Girl Blue” and “There’s a Small Hotel” in her repertoire indicating less of a focus on “Lady Sings the Blues”. Since the movie/soundtrack did not include all completed songs, this was away to correct that point…..so I had no issue with the length. Those of us fortunate to be in the audience for that American Express Platinum Event, were not ready for the show to end that very cold December evening. It was very surreal to have been in attendance at the show and then go home…soon as you got home, the Pay-Per-View special was in perpetual re-run. It was a wonder to marvel at how fantastic the room looked on film/video and even see your head in the audience. The audience was filled with New York luminaries like both Mayors Dinkins and Koch, several Broadway stars, etc. “My Man” remains a highlight for me. Motown/Universal was happy that overtime, the project did very well. It initially sold over 300,000 units and was then remastered and has remained a staple in her discography. Like “Return to Love”, had Diana decided maybe to also do a similar show at Ronnie Scott’s in London and maybe a jazz cafe in Paris, it would have done well in Europe. Ironically, it was the 3rd or 4th Diana television special that I was fortunate enough to attend the taping. And if you ever had the opportunity to attend a taping, it was always a unique experience from the actual airing. I don’t know why Motown chose to leave off “Where Did We Go Wrong” except that something had to be cut to fit in the timing on a CD. Interesting to note that the rare music video for “Where Did We Go Wrong” cleverly uses footage from the show and it works really well. It really is a recording to treasure considering the very well respected group of jazz musicians accompanying Diana for this date. I think as time will past, it will only grow in significance in her discography. It should have won several jazz Grammy nods. It is every bit as good as Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable”. But, once again, the push and pull within the Universal Music Group were never unified behind Diana when it came to the Grammys. The Grammy nomination process is heavily influenced by the labels and their respective music group being in unison on what they feel are the records that deserved recognition. Berry Gordy, on a small indie label, knew how to influence the Grammy nominating process. This was another indication that Diana never had the same level of support without Berry. It was no coincidence that save for “Muscles”, Diana did not get another Grammy nod after she left Berry’s Motown.

  11. LaMusicLovr (last.fm) says:

    I remember living in Houston when this show was on pay-per-view, and some other friends of mine (who are also “Ross-natics”) and I paid for the broadcast of the show on the night of its premiere…we were blown away! And when it was released, oh God, we must have listened endlessly…additionally, I was working for a major music retailer during this time and this title was played in our store many hours while I was at work…and thankfully, we sold quite a few copies to customers who came in and heard the recording. Great, happy memories!!!!

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