Diana Jean Krall grew up in a musical household in British Columbia, with a jazz-loving, piano-playing father and a mother who sang in a community choir. She started piano lessons at the age of four, and by the time she reached her mid-teens, was studying harmony and playing jazz in a local restaurant. She played in a duo at 15, and a trio at 16, learning how to write charts for trio from the band director at her senior school, otherwise she is largely self-taught, having been hugely influenced by her father's and her school band director's 78 rpm record collections. From early on, Fats Waller was a firm favourite.
Krall continued her musical education with a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music. After graduating, she was persuaded by Ray Brown to go to Los Angeles, where she spent three years playing jazz professionally, before returning to Canada. In 1993, Krall recorded her debut album, Stepping Out, with John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton. Two years later she recorded Only Trust Your Heart on GRP with Tommy LiPuma producing and Ray Brown playing bass. But, it wasn't until signing with Impulse! and her third album All for You: A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio (1996) that really put her firmly on the path to international superstardom. This album stayed in the Billboard jazz charts for 70 weeks, and was nominated for a Grammy.
However, global success only really came with her move to Verve and the album When I Look in Your Eyes(1999), which earned her a first Grammy, and a nomination for Album of the Year. Notably, this was the first time in 25 years that a jazz album had been nominated for the award. While fiercely loyal to her jazz as a first love, her music has become popular with a much wider audience, with her songs frequently being used in popular TV programmes and films and in 2000 she shared a 20-city tour with Tony Bennett.
Since then, Krall's success has grown phenomenally and she is undisputedly one of the best-selling artists of her era, with nine gold, three platinum and seven multi-platinum awards to her name. An element of her consistent success has been that from her second album through the next seven have been produced by LiPuma. She has had eight albums that have reached the top of the Billboard Jazz Albums on release, an achievement that has not been matched by any other artist.
The Look of Love released in 2001, is perfect in every way, from the choice of songs and Diana Krall's superb vocals and perfect piano accompaniment to the delicate and languid Claus Ogerman arrangements, Tommy LiPuma's exquisite production, right down to the cover art. This is a record that exudes class in the best tradition of the great Verve records from earlier decades. Ogerman, who is renowned for his work with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Frank Sinatra and George Benson helped in making it one of her most acclaimed and commercially successful albums, making her the first Canadian jazz artist to have a quintuple platinum album! According to LiPuma, "I put my trust in Claus," while Diana said at the time. "I knew he'd write the right arrangements. Tommy always brings out the best in me."'
This same album also gained her three Juno awards, and a trio of coveted awards: Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year (2002). In 2003 she won a second Grammy award for her Live in Paris (2002) in the Best Jazz Vocal Album category, a live recording that took place on her world tour, and her first live album. In total, Krall has been awarded eight Juno Awards and numerous other accolades and is regarded as one of the most successful and alluring jazz musicians of all time.
In 2003, Krall married Elvis Costello and the following year released an album The Girl in the Other Room which included some original material, a first for Krall, some co-written by Costello, and ranked 7th Top Jazz Album of the Decade by Billboard. In 2006, From This Moment On was released, an album reminiscent of her earlier work, involving larger ensembles and jazz standards. Later that year, she gave birth to twin boys, but by 2009 was back in the studio, working again with Ogerman to record Quiet Nights, a bossa-nova themed album. In the same year she also produced an album for Barbara Streisand. Krall's Glad Rag Doll, includes covers from the 1920s and 30s drawn from her father's collection, produced with T-Bone Burnett it came out in in 2012.
Words: Richard Havers
Vocalist/pianist Diana Krall was a very hot property by the time this Impulse CD was released. Teamed in a trio with her regular guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Christian McBride, Krall here mostly emphasizes ballads having something to do with love. She is at her best on "I Don't Know Enough About You," "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You," and "How Deep Is the Ocean."
Words: Scott Yanow
With this CD, the young Canadian singer/pianist/arranger joins forces with producer Tommy LiPuma, who places his orchestral stamp on eight of the 13 tracks. It is the latest attempt to push Krall to an even wider pop/smooth jazz audience than she already enjoys. After all, Nat Cole, Wes Montgomery, and George Benson, among others, went this route. Wonder if she'd agree the cuts sans strings were more fun and challenging? Krall does get to it with central help from bassists John Clayton and Ben Wolfe, drummers Jeff Hamilton and Lewis Nash, and guitarist Russell Malone, all stellar players. Krall's voice is sweet and sexy. She's also flexible within her range and at times a bit kitschy, mostly the hopeless romantic. On this CD of love songs, it's clear she's cool but very much in love with this music. Bob Dorough's "Devil May Care" and the insistent "Best Thing for You" really click. Favorites are a decent Shearing-esque "Let's Fall in Love" with vibist Larry Bunker; a suave slow bossa on the opening number, "Let's Face the Music"; the lusher-than-lush title track; and especially an incredible horn-fired fanfare intro/outro on the hip "Pick Yourself Up." Some might call this fluff or mush, but it depends solely on your personal taste. This will certainly appeal to Krall's fans, lovers, and lovers at heart.
Words: Michael G. Nastos
Canadian singer/pianist Diana Krall moved up to an American major label, GRP Records, with her second album, Only Trust Your Heart, having made her debut, Stepping Out, with the Canadian independent Justin Time Records two year earlier. The approach is basically the same, although her supporting musicians are different. Tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine sits in on three tracks, "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?," "I Love Being Here with You," and the Ray Brown instrumental "CRS-Craft," but otherwise this is piano trio music, with drummer Lewis Nash and either Brown or Christian McBride on bass. Krall is a neo-traditionalist with a legitimate pedigree detailed by Michael Bourne in his liner notes: an isolated upbringing in British Columbia, playing her father's Fats Waller 78s; classical piano lessons while playing in the school jazz band; a Vancouver Jazz Festival scholarship to the Berklee College of Music; a Canadian Arts Council grant to study with Jimmy Rowles in Los Angeles. The result is a performer steeped in traditional acoustic jazz piano playing and singing, and Krall demonstrates her talents on this album, soloing freely on the tunes, which are mostly standards, of course, and singing in a sturdy alto. It says something about the state of jazz circa 1995 that, at age 30, such a performer was getting a big promotional push. Krall was much more than a pretty face and a wave of blonde hair playing old-fashioned jazz, but she was that, too. So, once again in major-label jazz, it was back to the future for a record that, for all intents and purposes, could have been recorded in 1954 instead of 1994, except, of course, that that would have been ten years before the artist was born.
Words: William Ruhlmann
Pianist/vocalist Diana Krall pays tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio on her Impulse! set. In general, the medium and up-tempo tunes work best, particularly such hot ditties as "I'm an Errand Girl for Rhythm," "Frim Fram Sauce," and "Hit That Jive Jack." Krall does not attempt to directly copy Cole much (either pianistically or vocally), although his influence is obviously felt on some of the songs. The slow ballads are actually as reminiscent of Shirley Horn as Cole, particularly the somber "I'm Through With Love" and "If I Had You." Guitarist Russell Malone gets some solo space on many of the songs and joins in on the group vocal of "Hit That Jive Jack," although it is surprising that he had no other opportunities to interact vocally with Krall; a duet could have been delightful. Bassist Paul Keller is fine in support, pianist Benny Green backs Krall's vocal on "If I Had You," and percussionist Steve Kroon is added on one song. Overall, this is a tasteful effort that succeeds.
Words: Scott Yanow
The Look of Love is the sixth album by Canadian jazz pianist and vocalist Diana Krall, released in 2001 (see 2001 in music). It became Diana Krall's best-selling album, best-selling album of Canada and best-selling album of 2001. Billboard ranked album at number 5 on the magazine's Top Jazz Albums of the Decade.
Recorded "live" at the Paris Olympia, Live in Paris offers listeners Diana Krall's understanding of the musical techniques of composition, piano, and vocal improvisation on 12 songs from the Great American Songbooks of Cole Porter,Harold Arlen, George and Ira Gershwin, and contemporary artists Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel. Accompanied by the award-winning Anthony Wilson on guitar, John Pisano on acoustic guitar, John Clayton on bass, Jeff Hamilton on drums, and Paulinho Da Costa on percussion as well as the Orchestra Symphonies European on "Let's Fall in Love" and "I've Got You Under My Skin," the lovely vocalist heightens your listening pleasures with distinctive phrasings and tangible pathways to inside the creative imagination by getting inside harmony, the changes, and melodic structures. On Joel's "Just the Way You Are," Krall is accompanied by Christian McBride on bass, Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone, Lewis Nash on drums, and Wilson on guitar, among others. This song also resides on the soundtrack to the film The Guru and is probably one of the best ballads on the set due to the great solo from Brecker. His powerful but sensitive playing adds the ultimate expression and approach to the melody -- one with attitudinal preparation, which is always necessary for a song that has such familiarity and association with another musician. For those who may not have heard Krall perform "live," this recording will give you a firsthand account of the ambience and excitement of a musical evening with her.
Words: Paula Edelstein
For only the second time in her career, jazz pianist and vocalist Diana Krall deviates from her tried, true m.o. of covering easily identifiable jazz standards. On Glad Rag Doll she teams with producer T-Bone Burnett and his stable of studio aces. Here the two-time Grammy winner covers mostly vaudeville and jazz tunes written in the 1920s and '30s, some relatively obscure. Most of the music here is from her father's collection of 78-rpm records. Krall picked 35 tunes from that music library and gave sheet music to Burnett. He didn't reveal his final selections until they got into the studio. Given their origins, these songs remove the sheen of detached cool that is one of Krall's vocal trademarks. Check the speakeasy feel on opener "We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye," with Marc Ribot's airy chords, Jay Bellerose's loose shuffle, and Dennis Crouch's strolling upright bass. Krall's vocal actually seems to express delight in this loose and informal proceeding -- though her piano playing is, as usual, tight, top-notch. The shimmering sentimental nocturnal balladry there gives way to swing in "Just Like a Butterfly That's Caught in the Rain," which stands out because of the interplay between Ribot's ukulele, a pair of basses, and Bellerose's brushes. Krall's vocal hovers; she lets the melody guide her right through the middle. On the title cut, her only accompanist is Ribot on an acoustic guitar. Being the best-known tune in the bunch, it's easy to compare this reading with many others, but Krall's breathy vocal fully inhabits the lyric and melody and makes them her own. A few tracks stand apart from the album's theme. There's the modern take on Betty James' rockabilly single "I'm a Little Mixed Up," which allows Burnett to indulge himself a little and showcases a rarity: Krall playing rock & roll piano. The atmospheric reading of Doc Pomus' "Lonely Avenue" is somewhat radical, but is among the finest moments here. Burnett gets his obligatory reverb on here, but the weave of his and Ribot's guitars (and the latter's banjo) and the mandola by Howard Coward (Elvis Costello in one of several guest appearances) is arresting. The arrangement also contains an odd yet compelling reference to Miles Davis' "Right Off (Theme from Jack Johnson)"; Krall's piano solo is rife with elliptical, meandering lines and chord voicings. But vocally she gets inside the tune's blues and pulls them out with real authority. Glad Rag Doll is not the sound of Krall reinventing herself so much as it's the comfortable scratching of an old, persistent itch. The warmth, sophistication, humor, and immediacy present on this set make it a welcome addition to her catalog.
Words: Thom Jurek
While the jazz fascists (read: purists) may be screaming "sellout" because Diana Krall decided to record something other than standards this time out, the rest of us can enjoy the considerable fruit of her labors. The Girl in the Other Room is, without question, a jazz record in the same manner her other outings are. The fact that it isn't made up of musty and dusty "classics" may irk the narrow-minded and reactionary, but it doesn't change the fact that this bold recording is a jazz record made with care, creativity, and a wonderfully intimate aesthetic fueling its 12 songs. Produced by Tommy LiPuma and Krall, the non-original material ranges from the Mississippi-fueled jazzed-up blues of Mose Allison's "Stop This World" to contemporary songs that are reinvented in Krall's image by Tom Waits ("Temptation"), Joni Mitchell ("Black Crow"), Chris Smither ("Love Me Like a Man"), and her husband, Elvis Costello ("Almost Blue"). These covers are striking. Krall's read of Allison's tune rivals his and adds an entirely different shade of meaning, as does her swinging, jazzy, R&B-infused take on Smither's sexy nugget via its first hitmaker, Bonnie Raitt. Her interpretation of Waits' "Temptation" is far more sultry than Holly Cole's because Krall understands this pop song to be a jazz tune rather than a jazzy pop song. "Black Crow" exists in its own space in the terrain of the album, because Krall understands that jazz is not mere articulation but interpretation. Likewise, her reverent version of Costello's "Almost Blue" takes it out of its original countrypolitan setting and brings it back to the blues.
As wonderful as these songs are, however, they serve a utilitarian purpose; they act as bridges to the startling, emotionally charged poetics in the material Krall has composed with Costello. Totaling half the album, this material is full of grief, darkness, and a tentative re-emergence from the shadows. It begins in the noir-ish melancholy of the title track, kissed with bittersweet agony by Gershwin's "Summertime." The grain in Krall's pained voice relates an edgy third-person tale that is harrowing in its lack of revelation and in the way it confounds the listener; it features John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums. In "I've Changed My Address," Krall evokes the voices of ghosts such as Louis Armstrong and Anita O'Day in a sturdy hip vernacular that channels the early beat jazz of Waits and Allison. The lyric is solid and wonderfully evocative not only of time and place, but of emotional terrain. Krall's solo in the tune is stunning. "Narrow Daylight," graced by gospel overtones, is a tentative step into hope with its opening line: "Narrow daylight enters the room, winter is over, summer is near." This glimmer of hope is short-lived, however, as "Abandoned Masquerade" reveals the shattered promise in the aftermath of dying love. "I'm Coming Through" and "Departure Bay," which close the set, are both underscored by the grief experienced at the loss of Krall's mother. They are far from sentimental, nor are they sophomoric, but through the eloquence of Krall's wonderfully sophisticated melodic architecture and rhythmic parlance they express the experience of longing, of death, and of acceptance. The former features a beautiful solo by guitarist Anthony Wilson and the latter, in its starkness, offers memory as reflection and instruction. This is a bold new direction by an artist who expresses great willingness to get dirt on her hands and to offer its traces and smudges as part and parcel of her own part in extending the jazz tradition, through confessional language and a wonderfully inventive application that is caressed by, not saturated in, elegant pop.
Words: Thom Jurek
Returning to the large ensemble sound of her 2005 success, Christmas Songs, pianist/vocalist Diana Krall delivers a superb performance on 2006's From This Moment On. Although having received a largely positive critical response for her creative departure into original singer/songwriter jazz material on 2004's The Girl in the Other Room, here listeners find Krall diving headlong into the Great American Songbook that has long been her bread and butter. While she's always been a pleasant presence on album, Krall has developed from a talented pianist who can sing nicely into an engaging, classy, and sultry vocalist with tastefully deft improvisational chops. But it's not just that her phrasing and tone are well-schooled. Having long drawn comparisons to such iconic and icy jazz singers as Julie London and Peggy Lee, Krall truly earns such high praise here. In fact, tracks like "Willow Weep for Me" and "Little Girl Blue" are drawn with such virtuosic melancholy by Krall as to be far and away some of the best ballads she's put to record. Similarly impressive big swing numbers like "Come Dance with Me" showcase her muscular rhythmic chops both vocally and on the keys. Backing her here is the always wonderful Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, featuring some punchy and solid solo spots by trumpeter Terell Stafford, as well as the rhythm section talents of guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Robert Hurst, and drummer Jeff Hamilton.
Words: Matt Collar
Bossa nova is not unfamiliar to Diana Krall, but 2009's Quiet Nights is her first record devoted to the gently swaying rhythm. Teaming up again with arranger Claus Ogerman, who last worked with Krall on 2001's The Look of Love and who also frequently collaborated with bossa nova godfather Antonio Carlos Jobim, Krall winds up with a mellow, lazy album that recalls the relaxed late-night sophistication of Jobim's duet album with Frank Sinatra, which Ogerman also happened to arrange and conduct. It's not just the sound, it's the songs: how '60s standards like Bacharach/David's "Walk on By" sit next to three Jobim tunes, a song by Marcos Valle ("So Nice"), and a few American Songbook standards placed at the beginning, the better to ease listeners into purer bossa nova at the end. Then again, they don't need much persuasion -- if any music could be called accessible it's this, with its warm intimacy and classic good taste. If anything, there may be a bit too much classic good taste on Quiet Nights -- there is no reinterpretation, only homage -- but that's not quite a problem because Krall knows enough to lay back, to never push, only to glide upon the gossamer surface. After all, some things are timeless for a reason; they need no updating, only replicating.
Words: Stephen Thomas Erlewine