Diana Krall rel­ishes the joy in the ‘Quiet’

Los Angeles Times - - SUNDAY CALENDAR - By James Reed james.reed@la­times.com Twit­ter: @jreed­writes

The wink is right there in the name of Diana Krall’s new al­bum. “Turn Up the Quiet” is short­hand for what the Cana­dian jazz pi­anist, singer and song­writer has mas­tered in a nearly 25-year ca­reer guided by the no­tion that there’s plenty of power in grace and un­der­state­ment.

It’s no won­der Krall, at 52, has be­come one of jazz’s most re­li­able — and com­mer­cially vi­able — voices, enough so that she’s head­lin­ing the Hol­ly­wood Bowl for a two-night stand Fri­day and Satur­day, backed by the Hol­ly­wood Bowl Or­ches­tra.

Not un­like the jazz sprite Blos­som Dearie, the Grammy-win­ning Krall has cu­rated her reper­toire with an ex­act­ing eye. Traips­ing through the Great Amer­i­can Song­book, from Cole Porter and Nat “King” Cole to Burt Bacharach and Bob Dy­lan, Krall doesn’t treat stan­dards as mu­seum pieces. She ex­tracts their essence, some­times to star­tling ef­fect, to re­frame them for con­tem­po­rary times.

She ven­tured out­side those lines with 2004’s “The Girl in the Other Room,” an un­der­rated al­bum of mostly orig­i­nal ma­te­rial she co-wrote with hus­band Elvis Costello, with whom she has twin sons.

Krall re­cently spoke about her lat­est al­bum and how it has been marked by both joy and sor­row. Pro­ducer Tommy LiPuma, an im­por­tant men­tor and long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor, died in March. It’s clear you had a lot of fun mak­ing this new al­bum, but you lost Tommy just two months be­fore it was re­leased. How has that col­ored your con­nec­tion with these new songs?

It’s been such a strange time. I don’t think you ever get over some­thing like that. You’re just dif­fer­ent. But we’re out play­ing mu­sic now that he would be very pleased about, so I’m ready to talk about the mu­sic. Right now, I think, is the best time of my life mu­si­cally, where I feel most com­fort­able. Be­cause the record came out right when Tommy died, it was seen to be bit­ter­sweet. But it’s not a sad record. It’s a very joy­ful record, and we’re hav­ing a great time out here per­form­ing it. Your de­con­struc­tion of “Sway,” which most singers tend to swing, is a rev­e­la­tion on the new al­bum. You slow it un­til it gets un­der the skin. What’s your cri­te­ria for in­ter­pret­ing a song? What sort of test does it have to pass?

I was talk­ing about that with some­one last night. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to a lot of Joni Mitchell again, and I al­ways in­clude “A Case of You” in my set — for years. My friend was ask­ing me why I chose jazz, and I don’t know if it chose me or I chose it. I just have a feel for swing and im­pro­vi­sa­tion. I’m not tech­ni­cally Benny Green or Os­car Petersen or the great pi­anists I ad­mire, but I do have a depth of un­der­stand­ing that some­how gets me by. I feel that’s the most im­por­tant el­e­ment of play­ing in an en­sem­ble. I do have vir­tu­oso mu­si­cians work­ing with me, but they also have an in­cred­i­ble depth of feel­ing.

With a song like “A Case of You,” it’s like I’m in­ter­pret­ing a great play. I never, ever phone it in. I’m al­ways try­ing to find the per­fect story in a song and also har­mon­i­cally. Are you the kind of artist who goes into the stu­dio and knows ex­actly what she wants?

No. I knew ex­actly what I wanted to do with this al­bum, which was as­sem­ble three dif­fer­ent en­sem­bles. I had spe­cific songs in mind for each en­sem­ble. I call mu­si­cians to do what they’re [known to] do, so I don’t have to say any­thing. I’m not very ver­bal in the stu­dio. I rarely di­rect any­thing more than, “Can we play less on this? Can we just re­lax more here?” It’s all about tempo and feel. You stepped up as a song­writer on “The Girl in the Other Room” from 2004, but it’s been a while since we’ve heard new songs from you.

Yes­ter­day was the first day in a very long time that I’ve re­turned to that al­bum. For the long­est time I’ve protested and said, “No, I do not write. I’m not a com­poser like Joni Mitchell. How could I ever write like Cole Porter?” I ar­range and can con­cep­tu­al­ize, and there’s a great cre­ative art form in that; oth­er­wise we wouldn’t have Frank Si­na­tra and Ella Fitzger­ald and Bil­lie Hol­i­day.

Peo­ple didn’t ask them why they didn’t write their own songs. There was a time when peo­ple asked me that a lot. I turned to the band [the other day] and said, “Maybe I’ll write an­other one.” It’s great to have your hus­band as a lyri­cist. But some­one said if you com­pare your­self to ev­ery­one else, then you’ll never do any­thing. We’re com­ing up on the 25th an­niver­sary of your de­but, “Step­ping Out.” Is there any com­mon thread that holds your discog­ra­phy to­gether?

Well, I would have to say [dou­ble bas­sist] Ray Brown, [drum­mer] Jeff Hamil­ton, [dou­ble bas­sist] John Clay­ton. I went on a Cana­dian Arts Coun­cil grant to study in L.A. when I was 19. I was like Kris­ten Wiig in “Brides­maids” — in a Laura Ash­ley dress and a David Bowie hair­cut and smok­ing cig­a­rettes while driv­ing to my ho­tel gigs and study­ing with [pi­anist] Jimmy Rowles.

It was a time when I re­ally paid my dues, and I was so ex­cited I could go hear peo­ple at [L.A.] places like the Money Tree and Donte’s. It was an amaz­ing time, and I think about how young I was do­ing that by my­self, rent­ing a room from a fam­ily in Whit­tier. And here are we, 25 years later.

Mary McCart­ney

SINGER-PI­ANIST Diana Krall, whose “Turn Up the Quiet” al­bum is out, head­lines the Hol­ly­wood Bowl on Fri­day and Satur­day.

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