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Diana Krall



Diana Krall was a good pianist at the age of five. Her mother and father both played piano, and the instrument consumed her creative mind. She played jazz in the school band, and, at 15, she performed three nights a week at a restaurant in her home town of Nanaimo, in British Columbia, Canada.

She won a Vancouver Jazz Festival scholarship to the Berklee college of Music in Boston, moved to Los Angeles (thanks to a grant by the Canadian Arts Council), to study with Jimmy Rowles, played gigs there and in Boston– and was active on the jazz festival circuit.

It’s no wonder she had it together with her polished voice and trio sound in her first album, "Stepping Out," in 1981. She’s been a working musician for 25 years and it shows. This spring she’s touring South America, playing her new compositions and singing Elvis Costello lyrics. Ah, there’s the rub.

The two musicians, who married in December, 2003, have found a synergy that nourishes their individual talents, and it’s a deep mix. But it’s tricky for Krall to ‘move on’ while her loyal audience expects a concert of King Cole-like bounce (her strongest early influence). By attempting to synchronize her talents with Costello, she negotiates a rocky road and risks alienating her fan base.

Krall still swings. Her knock-out performance at the Montreal Jazz Concert last June (recorded on an excellent Verve DVD) clearly showed the Krall-Costello blend, when she sounded transported singing his lyrics to her music.

But Costello lyrics are complex and cranky– a long way from "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "Route 66." He’s more poet than musician.

Here’s a sample verse from "Tokyo Storm Warning" on his "Blood and Chocolate" album:

"The black sand stuck beneath her feet in a warm Sorrento sunrise. A barefoot girl from Naples or was it a Barcelona hi-rise whistles out the tuneless theme song on a hundred cheap suggestions, and a million false seductions and all those eternal questions."

Just try to sing stuff like that while you’re heating up the piano and leading a trio of headliners. Clearly the woman likes a challenge.

Back to the Montreal concert... Diana Krall commands the stage with a huge presence even though she's a size two petite and has child-like hands. She sets the groove mightily and plans her program with smooth and clever nuances.

She’s ever-more venturesome and improvisational– searching out new voicings, reworking melody lines, plucking piano strings- and singing like a great sax. Her strong concentration (she never tosses away a lyric) elicits a high level of listening from her audience.

Krall’s cool sensibility at the piano is precise, proud-ful, thoughtful, and edgy. As Oscar Peterson said, "I admire Diana because her approach has a dignity and truth to it."

She leaves her heart in a safer place than her sleeve, being both straight-forward and contrary– plaintive, yet loaded with moxie. She’s smart enough to relieve the pressure and share the spotlight with extraordinary guitar, bass, and drum soloists.

She’s a good editor who knows how to mix it up. She segues from a percussive Al Jarreau piece, seamlessly, into a bouncy "Devil May Care," to a Mose Allison romp, followed by Costello’s "The Girl in the Other Room," (an intricate jungle of lyrics) played with  rock-like punch and riffs. Then she moves into tunes by Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits– then Costello’s "Narrow Daylight," and wraps it up with a mean and feverish blues that leaves the audience swaying and begging for more.

She let’s you know that she is, very happily, moving on to new territory.




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