Diana Krall on Handling Grief, and ‘Finding Romance in Everything’
By ELYSA GARDNERJUNE 19, 2017
Diana Krall’s latest record, “Turn Up the Quiet,” was the last one produced with her champion, Tommy LiPuma, who died in March. Jesse Dittmar for The New York Times
On a spring afternoon, Diana Krall sat in an empty Café Carlyle, quoting lines from Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters” in a respectable New Yawk accent. Ms. Krall, the jazz pianist and singer, mentioned a scene in which Mr. Allen’s character takes a date to see Bobby Short, the Carlyle’s longtime cultural ambassador.
Ms. Krall met Mr. Short more than two decades ago, while still an aspiring musician. At the time, she was too shy to tell him she played the piano. “I would just sit in the background, in that chair,” she said, pointing toward the back of the room, as far from the stage as the intimate space allows.
The Diana Krall of today isn’t hiding in any corners. Now 52, she is easily the most high-profile female jazz artist of her generation, with a string of gold and platinum albums as well as film and TV projects, including an upcoming Amazon series adapting the children’s book series “Pete the Cat.” (Ms. Krall and her husband, Elvis Costello, voice Pete’s parents.) Ms. Krall is now eager to engage that veteran stature by mentoring younger musicians the way Rosemary Clooney, Marian McPartland and others encouraged her. And on Wednesday she will perform at the Beacon Theater, supporting her latest album, “Turn Up the Quiet,” a collection of standards released in May that was firmly guided by her artistic authority.
“If she had an idea for something, and it felt definite, she would let us know,” said the drummer Jeff Hamilton, a frequent collaborator who played on the record, “whereas in the past she might have said, ‘Is this O.K. with you guys?’”
“Turn Up the Quiet” is also her last album with her champion, the producer Tommy LiPuma, who died at 80 in March. Mr. LiPuma, who first worked with Ms. Krall on her 1995 sophomore album, “Only Trust Your Heart,” produced “Quiet” with her, and was indefatigable to the end, she said; his death was completely unexpected. “He wasn’t a frail old man,” she said, adding that he was the one who would stay in the studio “as late as possible.”
Ms. Krall at Café Carlyle. Jesse Dittmar for The New York Times
Though the shock hasn’t worn off, Ms. Krall has come to see “Quiet,” which includes songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer, as a testament to the values Mr. LiPuma embodied for her, and not just in their working relationship. “He took such joy in life,” she said. “He had a tremendous sense of humor, and he taught me the importance of taking time to be with my family.”
Since Ms. Krall began a recording career in the early 1990s, her screen-siren looks and alluring alto — a voice at once cool and sultry, wielded with a rhythmic sophistication and discretion culled from years of leading with her other instrument — have provided, for some, an aura of almost unapproachable glamour. In person, though, Ms. Krall will bluntly point out that she is “hopeless in a gown, because when you sit down at the piano, everything shifts and you just get so frustrated.” When she is recording, visions of Lauren Bacall and Bette Davis may dance in Ms. Krall’s head, but she feels more of a kinship to a goofier goddess (and onetime muse of Mr. Allen), Diane Keaton.
“I can’t finish sentences; I go all over the place,” Ms. Krall said, which is true, to the extent that in her enthusiasm about any given subject — movies, photography and family are consuming interests — she seems eager to leave nothing and no one out, deflecting any praise directed toward her in the process. Discussing the artists she has admired, or has been lucky to work with or would like to work with more often — all three lists are endless — she’s less a name-dropper than a breathless music nerd, quietly geeking out over Joe Lovano and Wynton Marsalis, or Julie London and Ms. McPartland, whom Ms. Krall first phoned when she was 17. (Ms. McPartland returned the call when Ms. Krall wasn’t home; her father took the message.)
Isn't It Romantic
"Isn't It Romantic" Video by Diana Krall – Topic
Over more than two decades in the public eye, during which she has become half of an atypically durable celebrity couple, and a mother — she and Mr. Costello have twin boys, now 10 — she has lost a stream of close relatives and mentors, and the album is a reflection of her progress in dealing with grief.
“It gets to the point where you need to laugh,” she said. “And we had so much fun making this record; that’s what I hope comes through.”
Ms. Krall recruited and led three ensembles for the album, one of them featuring the bassist John Clayton and Mr. Hamilton, who both began working with Ms. Krall when she was 19. In Ms. Krall’s early days, Mr. Hamilton recalled, “Ray Brown would call her ‘Foot,’ because she would stomp her feet when she played the piano — not tap them, but stomp them. She knew when it was time to get hot, to turn it on.”
Diana Krall – Night And Day (Audio)
Diana Krall – "Night And Day" Video by DianaKrallVEVO
For Ms. Krall, the jazz and pop standards on “Quiet,” like the many others she has performed through the years, represent not the past but the enduring. “It’s not about a period of time or a demographic. It’s about finding romance in everything, in beauty or in things that are sad.”
She sees great American songs as living documents, endlessly open to reinterpretation: “Listen to how Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson and Teddy Wilson played the same music, or how Sheila Jordan and Rosemary Clooney and Al Jarreau sang the same song. Charlie Parker invented bebop over these songs. That’s what makes me feel completely satisfied, the freedom in it.”
If motherhood and loss have made Ms. Krall more aware of her mortality, she’s not preoccupied with it. “Someone the other day said to me, ‘I can’t believe you’re 52!’ And I thought, ‘It’s O.K., dude.’ Then you think, ‘I wonder if Joni Mitchell went through this.’ But it’s liberating, in a way,” she said. “I think I’m more comfortable in myself than I’ve ever been.”