Potent as both a pianist and vocalist, Diana Krall possesses an extraordinary talent for creating music that speaks personally to every individual who hears her perform. But don’t expect Diana to tell her listeners what to feel. “Tony Bennett taught me how important emotional directness is in music,” she says. “It’s all about how you communicate. You tell a story, but you leave it open to personal interpretation.”
Now, she’s got love on her mind! Diana’s new Impulse! release, LOVE SCENES, features a stunning collection of tunes which she and label president/producer Tommy LiPuma hand-picked for this record. “I admired Tommy’s work long before I ever had the opportunity to work with him.” Diana continues, “he is completely involved in the studio… with the musicians, not in the sound booth,” she emphasizes. “He’s right there with us, listening, feeling the passion and beauty of the music. I especially appreciate his talent for bringing out the best in his artists,” she admits. “Tommy pushes you… makes you better.” He also has an intuitive sense about matching the music with the artist, Diana points out. “`I Miss You So’ is a perfect example of this. He knew it was right for me.”
On LOVE SCENES, Diana is joined in the studio by her musical partner of two and a half years, guitarist Russell Malone, and by bassist Christian McBride. Both of these stellar musicians hold a very special place in her heart. “Russell and Christian both shared their love of the joy and beauty of the music with me as we made this recording together,” Diana says. “We have a very telepathic musical relationship” — an interplay that is very evident on LOVE SCENES. “All the music came together very organically.”
Diana’s interpretations of “All Or Nothing At All” and the Gershwin classic “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” showcase a romantic vocal style, as well as her consummate skill at putting a fresh spin on time-tested jazz ballads. Her impeccable phrasing and her powerful command of nuance, combined with the clarity of her piano work and the remarkable performances of Malone and McBride, infuses all the songs on LOVE SCENES with a full-bodied instrumental sound and a powerful swing.
Diana’s love affair with classic jazz ballads and with the pop music of earlier decades started when she was a toddler growing up in Nanaimo, British Columbia. There was always music in Diana’s life, and many of the songs on LOVE SCENES reflect personal experiences from listening to music at home and singing along with her family. The sultry and humorous “Peel Me A Grape” reminds her of cooking and drinking wine with her sister in their mother’s kitchen: “It’s a smirk we share,” Diana says, “and I first performed it for my sister on her birthday.”
Many tunes on LOVE SCENES also evoke the lush landscape of her homeland and give an intimate glimpse of Diana’s roots — especially the spirited “My Love Is (A Mountainside)”, the melancholy “Gentle Rain”, and the simple and elegant “Garden In The Rain”. “It was subtle — and I didn’t even notice it until the recording was completed,” Diana says, “but Vancouver Island is surrounded by mountains. It’s a very rainy, green place, and a lot of the tunes refer to the ocean or to rain. LOVE SCENES is a look back at home, at what’s important to me, of the strength of all kinds of love — familial, friendship, romantic. Love is funny, naughty, sad, joyful… all those things.”
Diana and her family would gather at her grandparents’ home on Sundays to make music together (her mother and father both played piano and her grandmother was a singer). Nat King Cole, Fats Waller, Bill Evans, Frank Sinatra, opera, and the music of old radio shows helped form her musical tastes; as she grew older, she was also influenced by Sting, R&B and piano great Ahmad Jamal.
By age four, Diana had started classical piano studies, and in her teens she joined her high school jazz band. She landed her first paying gig — at fifteen — playing piano three nights a week at a hometown restaurant. Diana’s growing fascination with the singer/pianist role led her naturally to an appreciation of Dinah Washington, Roberta Flack, Carmen McRae, Nina Simone, and Shirley Horn, among others. “I’ve been singing `Ghost Of A Chance’ and `You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me’ (both included on LOVE SCENES) since I was 15 years old,” she admits.
Diana won a Vancouver Jazz Festival scholarship to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1981 and, after a year and a half of serious study, she returned to British Columbia. Master bassist Ray Brown heard her playing one night in Nanaimo and was so impressed by what he heard that he took her under his wing and his mentoring relationship with her continues to this day. Ray suggested Diana move to Los Angeles where she obtained a Canada Arts Council grant to study with Jimmy Rowles. “I loved to hear Jimmy sing `How Deep Is The Ocean’ which gives this tune’s inclusion on LOVE SCENES a very special meaning for me,” says Diana.
Ray Brown’s interest in Diana’s musical development is reflected in the liner notes for her first recording, STEPPING OUT (Justin Time Records, 1993), where she was joined by their mutual friends, Jeff Hamilton and John Clayton. (STEPPING OUT has been released only in Canada and in Europe.) After three years on the West Coast and a stint in Toronto, Diana moved to New York City in 1990. From this home base, she was able to focus on developing her singing and playing at a regular gig in Boston with her own trio. Shortly thereafter, she began her recording career and the rest, as they will most definitely say, is history. Many of the relationships that nurtured, challenged and sustained her over the years are reflected in LOVE SCENES.