By Greg Carannante
City & Shore Magazine
The other day I happened upon an old Diana Krall CD I hadn’t listened to in years. It wasn’t one of her 10 albums that peaked on Billboard’s jazz charts, or one of the eight that debuted there, making her the only jazz singer with that distinction. It wasn’t even an album of her music. It was one of the Artist’s Choice collections sold at Starbucks, a personal playlist of “music that matters to her.”
There are the choices you’d expect from a five-time Grammy-winning jazz pianist and vocalist — Duke Ellington, Carmen McRae, Oscar Peterson. But more than half of the selections don’t spring from her own idiom: Elton John, Lucinda Williams, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Mahalia Jackson, Robert Merrill, The Band, the Staple Singers and the genre-bashing genius Elvis Costello.
“I like the freedom we have as jazz artists to incorporate different elements,” she says in the liner notes.
Costello, of course, is Krall’s husband, which one might imagine reveals more about her than merely her taste in romantic partners. While their 14-year collaboration has inspired some songwriting of her own (as well as twin sons), Krall’s bread-and-butter is the American songbook. And this Starbucks collection, this peek behind her musical curtain, testifies to the eclectic 21st-century sensibility that has made her an ingenious interpreter of 20th-century standards and, at 52, no less than the female jazz artist of her generation.
It’s a sensibility that shines through in her performances, as it will when the stunning Canadian chanteuse takes the stage Feb. 1 at Broward Center for the Performing Arts. More than a spoken phrasing or a stride on the bluesy side, it’s a sensibility reflected in the artistic decision to record a collection of soft-rock classics like California Dreamin’ and I’m Not in Love, as she did with 2015’s Wallflower — or to release an album of hushed tones into the musical din of 2017 and defiantly title it, Turn Up the Quiet.
“I’ve done standards records before, but [this time] we just got the best players that I know,” Krall told Billboard last year. “The only concept was not to have a concept.”
The chart-topping collection may not have a concept but it certainly creates an overriding effect — like the twilight of a waking dream, it lulls as it mesmerizes. In a day when singing often resembles rhythmic ranting, she fairly whispers her way through 11 dialed-down standards. Songs like Cole Porter’s Night and Day, once belted out by Sinatra and Riddle, she swings sweet and low. Songs like Sway, a Dean Martin mambo, she treats as tenderly as a lullaby well worth staying awake for.
“It’s not about a period of time or a demographic. It’s about finding romance in everything,” Krall told The New York Times. With this, her 15th album, crowning a 24-year body of work that includes 2009’s Quiet Nights, it’s coming through loud and clear: Diana Krall is Queen of the Quiet. λ