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Diana Krall Looking at Love Through the Standards

Plaintive, wistful, romantic, sentimental, sad, gentle, calm/peaceful, joyous, refined/mannered, poignant, sensual, laid-back/mellow, intimate, stylish, elegant, earnest, soothing these are words that have been used to fittingly describe Diana Krall’s music.

Diana Krall popped on the scene in 1993 with her first CD "Steppin’ Out," (Justin Time), followed by a string of Grammy award nominations and platinum sales with her following albums. It was magic from the beginning. Krall could do no wrong, captivating the hoi polloi who were floored by her sultry voice and tasty piano styling. Eyes widened as she ushered forth a dazzling tribute to the songs of Nat King Cole on her "All for You," CD followed by "Love Scenes," with the exceptional accompaniment of Russell Malone and Christian McBride. Her latest release, "Look of Love" finds Krall in good company with a list of impressive musicians, symphony orchestras and the genius of arranger/conductor, Claus Ogerman.

Krall was catapulted into international fame almost immediately, bringing standards and songs of yesteryear back into popularity. One day no one knew her name, the next day she was a household word and CDs were flying off the shelves. Her CDs are filled with emotion, emphasizing that age-old villain, love and romance, so it’s no wonder she has a broad fan base rushing to purchase each new release. It is reminiscent of generations of Sinatra, Nat King Cole or Johnny Mathis fans snatching up their every album. Everyone wanted to make out to them, and when love went wrong they played them and cried in their beer.

Some critics say the divine Ms. Krall has turned all syrupy and her latest CD, "Look of Love," is barely more than background music, but I would say when this recording sold over 94,000 units in the first week and debuts at #9 on Billboard’s Top Current Albums chart, it’s proof positive that Krall is giving the listener exactly what they want. Diana has proven her ability to deliver both a beautiful love song and hip, catchy tunes like Hit That Jive, Jack, Peel Me A Grape, Frim Fram Sauce and I’m An Errand Girl for Rhythm, witnessed on her best, "All for You" CD. Her repertoire certainly has wide appeal both in jazz and pop circles.

Some also say her live performance leaves something to be desired in the warmth department, but I suppose when you tour 300 days a year, every performance cannot be a cosmic experience for every spectator. Krall performs to packed audiences worldwide, so she’s definitely doing something right. Further, some claim Krall is being commercially exploited by her label with the sexy photos contained on her latest CD. Well, she has definitely something to flaunt talent, good looks and a feel for a song.

Let’s join Diana Krall in an interview on the subject of her latest recording with Lawrence Tanter, program director and on-air personality at Southern California’s KJAZ.

Lawrence Tanter: "Take us back for a moment Diana. Your career has been rather fulfilling to say the least, a Grammy award winning collection ‘When I Look in Your Eyes,’ a platinum recording."

Diana Krall: "You know it’s interesting when people say to me, ‘your career has been very fulfilling, you’ve had a Grammy award, album of the year nomination, a platinum album.’ To tell you the truth, I don’t forget those things because those were very big moments in my life, but I guess my career has been so fulfilling because of the opportunities I’ve had to work with people that I’ve dreamt of working with; Jeff Hamilton, John Clayton who also had a large input on this album, Christian McBride who I have a long history with, Peter Erskine, Dori Caymmi, new people like John Pisano and Romero LaBamba who I just met on the stage, and Russell Malone who I’ve worked with for many years. It’s been fulfilling consistently because artistically, there is always something new and exciting for me to be challenged with, this project (Look of Love) in particular."

Lawrence Tanter: "You are working with one of the premier arranger/conductors in the world. Claus Ogerman is supreme."

Diana Krall: "I wished for this quietly and it happened. I can remember driving in the car with a friend mine. We were listening to Amorosa in the car and I was just saying ‘That is a masterpiece, diamond, record!’ We were both talking about it. I said, ‘wouldn’t it be amazing to work with Claus Ogerman? Wouldn’t it just be incredible?’ That was like two summer’s ago. Then, last summer I was in Munich where he resides and he called me, ‘cause Tommy Li Puma told him I was going to be in Munich. I was performing there."

"We met at Trader Vic’s and his wife Inga said, ‘I saw you sitting alone at the bar’ which was a very, yes, classic moment for me. They walked in and we sat from I think, seven o’clock until midnight just talking and drinking coffee. He seemed to be surprised that I knew his work as well as I did. They put me in a taxi at the end of the evening and Inga said to me, ‘Now, I told my husband that when you got into the car, that we’d be seeing that girl again very soon.’ So it’s kinda nice to think about that in the last few days."

Lawrence Tanter: "There comes a point when you sit down with yourself and you say ‘Aah, my next project!’ Give us a sense of the first seed that was planted internally and then when you discussed it with Tommy."

Diana Krall: "Initially I wanted to do maybe last summer I was just talking with my friends, my managers. I kind of wanted to do a ballads and Bossa Nova record. That’s kind of the idea I had. I went through records and records went through Sinatra records. I was very influenced with Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Carmen McCrae who recorded the Look of Love, which was the recording I was listening to that was influencing me. So, it goes through a process of picking out. Well, Tommy and I chose 23 tunes and I just put them down simply with piano and voice in the studio. Then we sort of listened to it back and chose from there."

Lawrence Tanter: "And then you traveled to London."

Diana Krall: "We were first in Power Station. Well it’s not Power Station, it’s Avitar now, which is where I recorded all my albums, there in NY. I went with Claus in New York. Then we went to Abby Road to record with the London Symphony Orchestra, which was an extraordinary experience just because of the history. You walk in and it’s Abby Road! You know, that is where the Beatles recorded in the same room! There are tourists all in the front and signing the wall. So, that whole thing created a really inspiring vibe. That was great."

Lawrence Tanter: "Was that your decision, or Tommy’s, or a collaborative effort to record in these different facilities?"

Diana Krall: "Claus, Tommy and I, and my management, we all decided that London would be an ideal place to record because Claus is in Europe and he is very comfortable with the London Symphony Orchestra. It’s a spectacular orchestra. Plus, it was nice for me to bring my family over. I brought my parents, and my sister who works with me. So, it was great to record there and knowing that Claus was a great conductor and very comfortable having worked with that orchestra before."

"It was also great to come back to Capitol and record with the extremely extraordinary Los Angeles musicians that we had here in the last three days. We had Abbey Road and Capitol, and everyday I walked down that hallway (at Capitol) and I saw (framed photographs) Keeley Smith, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Nat Cole. It’s a tough company."

Lawrence Tanter: "Playing the piano and singing you are basically playing two instruments simultaneously. How difficult is that?"

Diana Krall: "Sometimes it’s difficult to play and sing at the same time. Mostly it’s not. If I’m playing and I have to sing a counter line, then I think it’s impossible. If I’m ‘comping for myself and singing, it’s a very natural thing. I’m actually more comfortable behind the piano than when I am not. Now, I’m becoming more comfortable singing, but it is something that I do together that I think I’m a better singer. I’m not the greatest piano player in the world, but I love to play the piano and I play pretty good. I think I have a good feel. The reason I started playing in the first place is because of how it made me feel; because of Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Monty Alexander. I’ll go on and on and on, but the singers that inspired me were definitely Sarah Vaughn, Diana Washington especially Carmen McRae on a live album she did where she’s just playing piano and singing. It’s just fabulous!"

Lawrence Tanter: "Let’s talk about some of these timeless pieces of music Cry Me a River. Let’s talk about that beautiful song for a moment."

Diana Krall: "I’ve always just chosen songs that I like, that I can hear and find a story in. That also appeals to me on the jazz pianist side because I don’t really consider myself a jazz vocalist. Harmonically, melodically and lyrically, songs that I can find a story in. Cry Me a River was a suggestion of Tommy LiPuma’s. I’ve always liked it. I’m a huge fan of Julie London’s. I just worked it out. The introduction is reminiscent of All Night Long, from "Only Trust Your Heart," which you can borrow from yourself and other people I guess. It is a very satisfying song. I performed it with the symphony recently, and the more I sing it the more satisfying it is. I actually told the audience that they should go home and sing this song. If it’s out of tune, it doesn’t matter, but you should sing it as loudly and passionately as you can cause it’s extremely satisfying. Not that I’m coming from a place of experience. I just have a very vivid imagination."

Lawrence Tanter: "Dancing in the Dark has always been more appealing, more romantic, versus dancing in the light."

Diana Krall: "I was thinking about Dancing in the Dark for a long time. I mentioned it to Claus and he was immediately excited about it. He wrote an incredible arrangement. That’s what Claus does. If you listen to the Frank Sinatra’ record, "Sinatra sings Jobim," what he did with I Concentrate on You and Change Partners, I think he’s done with Dancing in the Dark and I Remember You. He’s taken something from this and made it into that! It’s always been a hobby of mine to try to find something else and make something different. Take like Frank Sinatra’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin which is a familiar Frank Sinatra tune, (she plays and sings) and to take it and make it into something; the same lyric, but by changing just a tempo (she plays it and sings slowly) which makes it into a kind of more ‘I wish I could get you out of my life, but I can’t!’ It’s an example of how to take, just by a tempo change, to change the story a little bit."

Lawrence Tanter: "So basically what we’re detecting here is that the music, the songs, the body of the entire project goes back to the title The Look of Love because the theme is pretty consistent."

Diana Krall: "The title for me, people think, is that it’s the best song on the album. I look at it more like no, it’s the ‘look,’ the different aspects of love."

Lawrence Tanter: "Love Letters is one, your new project, which is almost an oxymoron in 2001. Very few people write anymore except when they write E-mails."

Diana Krall: "I like to write letters whether it’s email or a handwritten letter which is always appreciated. But, Love Letters is very special to me. Claus and I didn’t have to talk about it very much. I originally recorded it, referring back to the verse (she plays). Claus wrote the most beautiful orchestral just only the orchestra alone and he said to me, ‘It&&&s almost a children’s song, very simple.’ That’s exactly what I was thinking. It’s sort of strange that we were thinking the same thing. It’s lovely to perform it live. I’ve performed it twice, once with the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and the Dallas Symphony recently. For me to sit at the piano and finish, (she plays and sings the lyrics) straight from the heart, and there is a key change and the orchestra just plays alone. I become one of the audience. It is very moving for me to sit and listen to such beautiful music and be part of it."

Lawrence Tanter: "Let’s talk for a moment about the producer, Tommy LiPuma, a name that music lovers see on the back of a CD cover around the world."

Diana Krall: "In talking about Tommy LiPuma, he is a very special friend and I am also blessed that I have Tommy to work with. We have an amazing rapport, understanding, and an amazing respect for one another. Whatever he has to do, he always brings out the best in his artists. He knows the music and cares about the music first. He’s always direct and truthful and listens to what artists or anybody around him has to say. We will always try something with the idea that ‘Hey, if doesn’t work, we don’t use it lets just try it, lets do the best we can, lets make this record the best record we can make from a musical standpoint.’ You know. Tommy is so into the music, so emotionally connected with it. It is so important to him."

Lawrence Tanter: "You prefaced the comment with ‘He is a friend.’"

Diana Krall: "Yeah, I love him very much, and his wife Jill. There are times, I can just laugh because we you know, you need to be totally yourself. When you’re in the studio, when you’re making a record, you’re completely stripped-down. You’re very vulnerable. They see every side of you. They see the frustration, the joy. They see the ‘I think I got it/I think I don’t that feeling that "am I doing the best job?’ See? You are totally vulnerable and stripped-down. As my friends, I trust them. I respect them. I’m very close to both of them."

Lawrence Tanter: "A recent quote from Tommy LiPuma: ‘This is an album The Look of Love by Diana Krall that I want to have people stopping in their tracks.’ Does a point come when he says, ‘Diana we stopped them?’"

Diana Krall: "Only the Lonely is an introduction where every time we would do the playback in London, Tommy would take out and I know he won’t mind me saying this his hanky, and sort of wipe his eyes and say, ‘It does it to me every time.’ And yesterday we were trying to leave and he was listening to the introduction to S’Wonderful and he goes, ‘It just kills me every time.’ Just that he has that reaction every time after hearing it consistently is amazing to me."

Lawrence Tanter: "As an album is being released around the world, the natural progression for an artist when they tour is to perform that material to augment the sale of the project. Invariable there will be sectors of the audience everywhere you go, and you go everywhere, that have their favorites. How do you balance that out? How do you perform to an audience when your songbook continues to grow?"

Diana Krall: "Well, that’s a very good question. It is a great problem to have and a great position to be in. I love performing live. It’s wonderful. Sometimes people just scream things out. I always say, ‘it ain’t over yet, we’ll get there.’ I was in Hong Kong recently and someone yelled Peel Me a Grape. All of a sudden I kept thinking about it and I went, ‘Okay.’ I kinda did an uninspired version of it. Later I thought, if you’re not into it then don’t do it. It’s gotta be right. Audiences are really great. I like to be spontaneous as well. I have a set list as a guide. Sometimes I do similar shows. It all depends on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’ll mix it up a little and be a little bit looser."

Lawrence Tanter: "We were discussing live performances. You are indeed an international artist. What countries outside North America do you enjoy performing in?"

Diana Krall: "I’m about to start a press tour in Germany, France and England. I love going to Europe. It’s fantastic. I also feel very close to Scandinavia, although I haven’t traveled there very much. I enjoy performing in South America tremendously. I did a South American tour last fall which was one of the highlights of my career, performing in Buenos Aires for three dates. I was able to see some of the city and hang out with some of the people there. We went to Montevideo and San Paulo. I love playing in South America. We played in Mexico City recently where the audience was like a rock concert. People were screaming. Such a great audience. I look forward to going back there again. We performed in Southeast Asia and Malaysia where the audience was tremendous as well. Hong Kong was fantastic. I’m happy to play anywhere they’ll have me. I also love performing in Canada where I’m from. It’s always great to come home and play there."

Lawrence Tanter: "Last year you did 300 dates around the world. You have an opportunity to grasp some of that flavor, some of that culture in those cities and countries you travel to and perform?"

Diana Krall: "It is difficult to tour 300 days a year and also be a tourist, or to have the time to go out to a museum or to see part of a city that is important. When I do have the luxury of having a day off, I will have the promoter or someone from the record company take me around. and I’ll try to relax and not try to put everything in one day. I’ve been able to go out and have great dinners. I’ll say take me to a restaurant that has the best local cuisine. I did have a chance in Buenos Aires to go to the Armenian Culture Center where it was local tango. Not performances, but where local people go to tango. We just sat there all night just like mesmerized and complete enthralled with the entire evening. I also got the opportunity to see the pyramids in Mexico City which was fabulous."

Lawrence Tanter: "Your success in Japan has been well documented. What is it about Japan and their affinity toward creative music?"

Diana Krall: "Jazz has always enjoyed a strong European audience and a Japan audience and strong international audiences really. Japan has the Blue Note, several I’ve performed at before. Japan has Sado Wantanabe and Makoto Ozone who is a great jazz pianist. They are great artists. So, they have their own great artists in jazz as well. It is wonderful that you can travel so far away and have an understanding. It shows that jazz is a universal art form. I think jazz is becoming more of a global art form because people are coming from so many different countries."

Lawrence Tanter: You in essence and so many other artists who have preceded you, become ambassadors for the musical gift that you’ve been given. What else do you try to tell your audience besides entertaining them?"

Diana Krall: "I sneak in that they should go and buy certain records. For instance, Nat King Cole that I learned this from a Nat King Cole record called After Midnight Sessions and if you go down to your local record dealer, you can find it. Some members of the audience maybe are not familiar with Nat Cole or John Coltrane, or Oscar Petersen, or Fats Waller or people that I’m listening to. So, I can do this without giving them a lecture which I joke about, that here is going to be a test at the end of the performance! All I can do is say, ‘You know what? This is really cool. This is where I learned it from and if you want to check this out and hear other people doing this, take out your note paper.’ So, it’s my job to turn other students onto other artists I’ve been blessed to work with."

Diana Krall: "Simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve. I can’t just bebop out on these things because it’s the orchestra and piano. So in a piano solo, I have to be very careful in that just a choice of notes, even if I have three notes, I don’t want to get in the way of the orchestra. I also want to play, but I want to make sure that I’m not just playing piano just to show off or to prove that I can play piano or I better play piano in here ‘cause I don’t want people to think I’m leaving the piano behind because I’m just a singer. I’m just focusing on what I think is artistically the right thing to do."

Diana Krall: "The reason I got into jazz was because of Ray Brown playing Frankie and John, and Monty Alexander just the feel of it. When I first heard Oscar Petersen’s Night Train, I didn’t know what hit me. It was that feel when I had the needle on the record. I put it back down, back down, and back down! It still excites me to even think about the feel."

Lawrence Tanter: Your music is part of Christmas now predicated on the Christmas album you’ve done. What is Christmas like for you and what has it been for you?

Diana Krall: "Christmas is my favorite holiday because Christmas is very much about family and about music because we all get together. My Nana Jean was such a character and Rosemary Clooney reminds me a lot of my grandmother. My grandmother was so much fun. I’m very close to Rosemary and she asked me, ‘Do I remind you of your Nana?’ And I said, ‘Yes you do.’ She took that as a compliment. My grandmother was so much fun (she repeats again). She knew every song. She could sing any song and at Christmas, we’d get all the Christmas carols out of the way so we could get down to (she snaps her finger) playing Fats Waller (laughs). My grandmother was the last person to go to bed. We always had Christmas Eve with my mother’s family and also my dad’s family it’s great!"

JazzReview: JazzReview would like to thank Jennifer Levy, Media Relations Manager, Verve Music Group for her cooperation in providing the Krall/Tanner interview.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Diana Krall
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