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Diana Krall: Live in Paris

By Mike Zwerin

PARIS, 10 June 2002 - Diana Krall is photogenic and she knows it. Twelve-count-em-12 photos of herself grace the cover of her album "When I look In your Eyes" (Verve). "I wish I really looked like that," she says about the album's emblem cover shot, in which she looks like a fashion model in flight - her head flung back streaming blonde hair behind and a carefree smile on her face. She thinks she looks "wrecked" in person from working too hard.

Riding the up-escalator in the department store Printemps, she passed floor upon floor with walls covered by poster-size full-color reproductions of the album cover. It was like Printemps was having a sale of Diana Krall wallpaper. She says she felt "embarrassed" by her image being all over the store, which was sponsoring a showcase performance in their small hall on top. Still, there it was. And the use of her beauty to promote her voice has since become more exploitive. However, this is about music.

Diana Krall
Diana Krall
Photo: Bruce Weber

The best thing, she says, about her increasing success as a vocalist is "the pleasure it gives my parents." They were riding up the Printemps escalator with her. Meeting them in Paris, their first time in the city, was so important to her that she didn't really feel like talking about much else. Every day with them has been "party time" since her mother recovered from a bone-marrow transplant a few years ago: "My mom's jaw dropped open when she saw all of those posters. I was so pleased."

Such terms as "big-time" and "big star" embarrass Krall, although they are increasingly apt. The only difference between then and now, she says, is being able to afford a hotel room with enough floor space to open up her suitcases (she travels heavy). It is nevertheless true that their nature - both the rooms and the suitcases - has also improved. Her 1997 album "Love Scenes" sold over 600,000 copies in North America, plus more than 100,000 in Europe and Japan.

What she describes as "high maintenance" comes with the territory when you are a constantly traveling woman with a high profile and sexuality to protect. A skin allergy led her to become a "cosmetics junkie" as part of her continuing search for "the perfect cream." Management's standard fax to hotels goes: "Diana Krall is allergic to fabric softener and feather pillows..." One hotel in Beverly Hills provides personal lotion in a bottle with her name on it. At home, she finds herself missing room service.

Although the extent of her success is extraordinary for jazz, one thing about Krall is that her records do not obviously belong in jazz bins. She has been called "a young Peggy Lee," and "an alluring Sharon Stone look-alike." Her persona is effortlessly constructed, her time is laid back. She avoids the "jazzy" vibrato and scat-singing episodes considered de rigeur by some female singers who try perhaps a bit too hard to have a place inside hallowed halls. She remains one of the most listenable singers around.

The legendary eccentric master Jimmy Rowles - who for awhile taught Marilyn Monroe how to sing - had, with the help of a Canadian Arts Council grant, been Krall's piano teacher. (She plays her cute little butt off.) He encouraged her to include singing in her performances. Which led to more work and an eventual move to New York. Her delivery can be compared to Nat "King" Cole. She accompanies herself at the keyboard as part of a drumless guitar/bass trio like Cole's. Her album "All For You" was an homage to him. With minimum ego, she goes directly to the dramatic implications at the heart of a song. That plus her personal, tasteful song selection and the occasional hoarse edge around phrases reminds you of Frank Sinatra.

If more proof of stardom-rising was needed, the Cannes Film Festival provided it. She sang the song "Why Should I Care?" written (with Linda Thompson and Carole Bayer Sager) by Clint Eastwood for his film "True Crime." Her record company took her to Cannes to promote it. As she walked on the red carpet, paparazzi were crying out for poses: "Diana, Diana." Just like a princess.

It was "like Cinderalla. I started to cry. I called my mom on a cell phone. I called Clint." Eastwood directed her "like an actor," correcting melodic phrases turned some unacceptable new way: "We've known each other for a long time. He understands what I do, I understand his approach. He's got a great ear. It's an experience of a lifetime to work with a director like that." Announcing the song on the Printemps stage, she prefaced the author's name with "my friend."

Diana Krall
Diana Krall
Photo: Bruce Weber

She had "a perfect childhood" in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, a two hour ferry ride from the city of Vancouver: "I had everything a kid could want, including two trips to Disneyland. Yep, two. My parents have this great relationship." Krall tries to visit home once a month. Telling people about her family and how close they all are, she's become accustomed to responses like, "Come on. Nobody has a family like that. It all sounds too good to be true." And she wonders: "Isn't it a shame that we live in such a skeptical age?"

She's perfectly aware how corny it sounds. But it's really very simple. She was given love and affection, and now she's "making sure it goes around again. Which doesn't mean we don't scream at each other. We're not a family out of Norman Rockwell. We're pretty loose when we play cards." The night before her showcase, while dining in a fancy Parisian restaurant, they were "really whooping it up, being obnoxious tourists. My mother told me to shut up. I used the f-word. 'Ssshhh,' she said, 'everybody's looking over here.' I'm on the road so much I've got a mouth like a sailor."

Krall opened for Joshua Redman, another photogenic young star, in Carnegie Hall: "That's all my mother talks about now - Carnegie Hall. All my relatives are coming. Last night I said 'if you mention Carnegie Hall just one more time I'm going to freak-out.' My mom said, 'Okay, fine. In that case we won't come at all, we'll just stay home.' Right. She doesn't even call it Carnegie Hall any more. It's just 'C.H.' I guess I'm getting pretty nervous about C.H. I'm going to have to practice."

Diana Krall: When I Look in Your Eyes
Diana Krall: When I Look in Your Eyes
Verve IMPD304

Diana Krall in concert:

7 July 2002: Istanbul Jazz Festival (Rumeli Castle Amphitheater)
14, 15, 16, July 2002: Sydney Opera House
24, 25 July 2002: Shanghai Center, Shanghai
29 July 2002: HK Convention Center, Hong Kong
7 August 2002: Grand Hyatt, Taipei
10 August 2002: TBD- Beijing
15 August 2002: Humphey's, San Diego, California
17 August 2002: Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, California
18, 19 August 2002: Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts, Saratoga, California
23 August 2002: Mann Music Center, Philadelphia
28, 29 August 2002: Westbury Music Fair, Westbury, New York
31 August 2002: Tanglewood, Lenox, Massachusetts
8 September 2002: CCH, Hamburg
9 September 2002: Opera, Rome
10 September 2002: Stadthalle, Vienna

Mike Zwerin has been jazz and rock critic for the International Herald Tribune for the last twenty years. He was also the European correspondent for The Village Voice. Zwerin is currently writing a book called "Parisian Jazz Affair" for Yale University Press and he is the jazz editor of Culturekiosque.com.

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