October 15, 2013

Diana Krall Plays It Like She Hears It

by Jim Newsom

Prior to last year’s Grammy awards, Diana Krall’s favorite collaboration was probably with Elmo and the Sesame Street gang. (You can see their definitive rendition of “Everybody’s Song” on YouTube.) But when Paul McCartney popped up on the 2012 Grammy telecast singing “My Valentine,” there was Ms. Krall at the piano, as she had been on his Grammy winning Kisses on the Bottom CD.

“I was pleased to work with Paul,” she told the Toronto Star, “it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The creative possibilities of what we can do are endless. But it’s all fun, everything we do, that’s all it is. We’re just having a little fun, right?”

She’ll bring a little fun to Chrysler Hall on Friday, October 18th, with her Glad Rag Doll tour. Though she made her mark interpreting the Great American Songbook, her setlist ranges far and wide. Sure she’ll cover Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, but she’ll also tackle tunes by Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.

“I want to be everyone whose music I’ve ever admired,” she said. “I want to be Eddie Vedder, I want to play the piano like Elton, I want to be there on some Fats Domino tune where the brushes come in just so for a couple of bars, or singing ‘Ripple’ along with Phil Lesh.

“That’s the beauty of not sitting in one place. I sing honky-tonk and bossa nova and the Great American Songbook. That’s me. Love me or leave me.”

A lot of people have loved the Canadian born singer-pianist since her debut album Stepping Out stepped out in 1993. Not only has she sold more records than most other jazz artists, she’s won a slew of honors and awards. Her sultry good looks helped her grab attention initially, but her voice, piano playing and song selection have kept her in the public eye.

Her most recent recording, Glad Rag Doll, features a sexy cover photo that implies mischief, intimacy and sensuality. She and producer T-Bone Burnett chose much of the material from Diana’s dad’s collection of old 78-rpm records. In concert, she shares family stories connected to the songs.

“I was cleaning stuff up a few years ago,” she explained, “and I found a recording my dad made for me on cassette, a mix tape from my father. He must have sent it to me right after I started studying at Berklee. He played his old 78-cylinders for me and recorded them with a microphone through the horn. He deejayed all these songs for me, a lot of them from the ’20s and ’30s. A lot of them I put on the album and sing onstage now.”

She’s traveled a long way for a shy girl from Nanaimo, British Columbia. Her father played piano, her mother sang in a community choir. She began playing herself at the age of four and sang along with those old songs at her grandparents’ house.

“After dinner,” she told NPR’s Morning Edition, “somebody would play the piano or the accordion or spoons, or whatever else was available in the kitchen. I was maybe six years old. Somebody was always playing something from a piece of sheet music. I still have the sheet music, and it still smells like cigarettes. I just thought that everybody's grandparents loved old music and loved jazz."

Twenty years into a very successful recording career, Diana Krall is happy just being herself:

“Inside me, I gave up trying to be a diva a long time ago. That lady in the long fancy dress just isn’t me. I don’t think she ever was. I’m in a great place now. I’m just playing jazz. It’s more about the emotion of things for me, not the style, not the technique.

“I don’t want to analyze music anymore and wonder whether it’s traditional or nostalgic. It is what it is. You play the music like you hear it and you honor it like you hear it. That’s all.”

Diana Krall
Chrysler Hall
Friday, October 18 – 8:00 pm
Tickets: $57.00 – 96.00

copyright © 2013 Jim Newsom. All Rights Reserved.