(photo by Bruce Weber)
There are some unspoken rules in the jazz world. Rules that say acoustic-oriented jazz musicians are not supposed to have platinum and gold albums or sell out large auditoriums night after night. Rules that straight-ahead jazz releases are not supposed to reach the top of Billboard's pop charts. Rules that jazz artists shouldn't expect to receive standing ovations at Lilith Fair or compete with Santana, TLC, the Backstreet Boys, and the Dixie Chicks in a GRAMMY® category.
For the past ten years, someone has been breaking these rules and demonstrating that a jazz musician can, in fact, enjoy mass appeal without sacrificing her jazz foundation. Her name is Diana Krall. Not only has the Canadian singer/acoustic pianist become the top-selling artist on the Verve roster-she has become jazz's top selling vocalist, period. She is a crossover phenomenon who has remained faithful to her bop and swing roots.
After making a name for herself with studio recordings, Krall takes another step forward with Live in Paris, her first concert album. Produced by the GRAMMY®-winning team of Verve Music Group Chairman Tommy LiPuma with engineer and long-time collaborator Al Schmitt, Live in Paris contains highlights of Krall's concerts at the Paris Olympia in late November and early December 2001.
Krall leads a cohesive, intuitive group that includes bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton, and guitarist Anthony Wilson. On some of the selections, she is also joined by John Pisano (who is heard on acoustic guitar) and Brazilian percussionist Paulinho Da Costa (who has played on literally hundreds of albums, backing everyone from Michael Jackson and Madonna to Gato Barbieri). Alan Broadbent serves as music director/conductor for The Orchestra Symphonies European performances, and though Broadbent is an expressive bop/post bop pianist, all of the piano playing is handled by Krall herself. Krall explains: "My favorite singers have all played piano: Dinah Washington, Roberta Flack, Shirley Horn, Andy Bey, Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, and especially Carmen McRae. She has really been important to me and is one of my biggest influences. And Nat 'King' Cole was the ultimate."
Live in Paris illustrates the diversity of Krall's repertoire. Krall not only has an extensive knowledge of the great Tin Pan Alley standards of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s-she is also well versed in songs from the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Krall shows her love of Tin Pan Alley on swinging performances of Harold Arlen's "Let's Fall in Love," Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin," and George & Ira Gershwin's "'S'Wonderful," but she also brings her interpretive powers to singer Bob Dorough's 1950s bop classic "Devil May Care," Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" and the Burt Bacharach/Hal David favorite "The Look of Love." Krall picks two songs that are closely identified with Peggy Lee-"Deed I Do" and "I Love Being Here with You"-as well as Bart Howard's "Fly Me to the Moon," which was made famous by Frank Sinatra.
The only track that isn't from her Paris Olympia concerts is a studio recording of Billy Joel's 1977 hit "Just the Way You Are," which Krall recorded for the soundtrack to the film The Guru. On this track, she is joined by Anthony Wilson as well as tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, bassist Christian McBride (with whom she has often worked in the past), drummer Lewis Nash, and percussionist Luis Quintero.
Born in Nanaimo, British Columbia (not far from Vancouver), Krall grew up in the western part of Canada and began studying the piano when she was only four. Krall was raised on jazz, and by the time she was 15, she was performing standards in a local restaurant/bar. One person who did a lot to encourage her interest in jazz was her father, a stride pianist who had a vast knowledge of 1920s and 1930s pianists like Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, and Earl "Fatha" Hines. Krall recalls: "I think Dad had every recording Fats Waller ever made, and I tried to learn them all."
Krall was still a teenager when she was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. After two years in Boston, she moved to Los Angeles, where she met some jazz heavyweights, including John Clayton, pianist/singer Jimmy Rowles, and the late bassist Ray Brown (who gave her a great deal of encouragement and ended up playing on some of her 1990s albums). Krall had been in LA for three years when she moved to Toronto, and it was a Canadian label that gave the singer/pianist her first chance to record. In 1993, the Montreal-based Justin Time Records released Krall's debut album, Stepping Out. But Krall, who now lives in New York, didn't stay with Justin Time very long. In 1994, she signed with GRP and recorded Only Trust Your Heart, which boasted Ray Brown on bass and Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone and marked the beginning of her association with Tommy LiPuma (who has worked with everyone from Barbra Streisand to Natalie Cole to George Benson). After producing Only Trust Your Heart, LiPuma produced several more Krall albums for GRP, Impulse!, and Verve, including All for You: A Dedication to the Nat "King" Cole Trio in 1995, Love Scenes in 1997, When I Look In Your Eyes in 1998, and The Look of Love in 2001. LiPuma observes: "That was the first time I had produced that many albums in a row for any artist. Diana and I have such a good chemistry between us-it makes it easy. When one of us makes a suggestion, the other listens in earnest. We have tremendous respect for one another."
As the 1990s progressed, Krall grew increasingly popular. Only Trust Your Heart, All for You and Love Scenes were all respectable sellers, but the album that put Krall over the top commercially was When I Look in Your Eyes. In 1998 and 1999, the success that When I Look in Your Eyes enjoyed was astounding. In addition to spending 52 weeks in the #1 position on Billboard's jazz chart, the album won GRAMMYs® in two categories: Best Jazz Vocal Performance and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Plus, When I Look in Your Eyes received a GRAMMY® nomination in the Album of the Year category-a category that found her competing with the likes of Santana, the Backstreet Boys, the Dixie Chicks, and TLC. Needless to say, it isn't every day that an acoustic-oriented jazz improviser finds herself competing with major rock, country, urban, and teen-pop stars in a GRAMMY® category.
Nor is it every day that a jazz improviser becomes a major attraction at the Lilith Fair festival, which was founded by singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan and has tended to spotlight female pop-rock and pop artists. But in 1998, Krall had no problem winning over a young, predominantly female audience that was more likely to be into Sheryl Crow or Alanis Morissette than Abbey Lincoln or Chris Connor. When I Look in Your Eyes went platinum in the United States (where it sold over one million units), double platinum in Canada, platinum in Portugal, and gold in France. And in 2000, it won a Canadian Juno Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album. Although When I Look in Your Eyes was an extremely tough act to follow, Krall's next album, The Look of Love, has also been an impressive seller. When The Look of Love was released in September 2001, it entered the Billboard 200 at #9 and sold 95,000 copies in the U.S. alone its first week. In addition to going quadruple platinum in Canada and platinum in Australia, New Zealand, Poland, and Portugal, The Look of Love has gone gold in France, Singapore, and England. At Canada's Juno Awards, The Look of Love was a winner in three categories: Best Artist, Best Album, and Best Vocal Jazz Album. A lush collection of ballads and bossa nova, The Look of Love was arranged by Germany's famous Claus Ogerman and found Krall being backed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Recalling the sessions for that project, Krall asserts: "I was so creatively pumped. We recorded so many tunes; I wish we could have released a double record. The Look of Love was my dream come true." With The Look of Love and When I Look in Your Eyes still riding high, Krall continues to sell out large auditoriums all over the world. And Live in Paris is a gift to the legion of fans who have faithfully brought her CDs and attended her sold-out concerts.
"The thing about Diana is her musicianship," Al Schmitt said of the platinum-selling singer/pianist in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "More than most singers, she knows what's right for her, and she knows how to make it happen musically."