Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


KRALL, Diana

(b 16 November 1964, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada) Jazz singer and pianist, one of the best of her generation. Grew up in a musical family on Vancouver Island; studied piano from age four and played in a restaurant at 15. She was influenced by her father's record collection, especially Fats Waller; she taught herself to play and sing at the same time, helped by Louise Rose, another pianist/singer. She attended Berklee in the early 1980s, and back home was inspired and encouraged by drummer Jeff Hamilton, bassists John Clayton and Ray Brown ('my godfather'), pianist Dave McKenna; she went to Los Angeles to study with Jimmy Rowles and returned to Toronto to study with multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson, Canada's best-kept secret. By 1990 she was located in NYC, also working in Boston.

Albums include Steppin' Out on Justin Time, Only Trust Your Heart on GRP (Justin Time in Canada), All For You (A Dedication To The Nat King Cole Trio) on MCA/Impulse with guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Paul Keller, produced by Tommy LiPuma. She wants to lead a trio like a quartet with her voice on top, and admires 'Ahmad Jamal's old trio, the one with Israel Crosby and Vernel Fournier ... I want them to take risks, to be completely contributing...' She has worked in Japan and Europe, making friends everywhere; Terry Teachout wrote in the Wall Street Journal that her voice 'sounds like wild honey with a spoonful of Scotch', and Time magazine called its story 'And She Swings Too'. She was celebrated for her good looks, but her looks are those of the girl next door rather than a movie star; she was in fact shy, lacked stage presence for some years and hated to give interviews.

Love Scenes '97 had Russell Malone on guitar and Christian McBride on bass; it included Dave Frishberg's amusing 'Peel Me A Grape', and also the chestnut 'Garden In The Rain', by James Dyrenforth and Carroll Gibbons, irritating as a hit by the Four Aces more than 40 years earlier, but revealed by Krall to be a beautiful song. The album was nominated for a Grammy. Her first album on Verve, When I Look Into Your Eyes '99, had arrangements by Johnny Mandel; then The Look of Love 2001 with arrangements by Claus Ogerman was a huge hit, selling a million and a half copies, asnd winning a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal. Some of the songs, such as 'I Remember You', may have been chosen with her mother in mind: her mother died of cancer in 2002, and she also lost her friends Rosemary Clooney and Ray Brown that year.

Then she met and married Elvis Costello, who talked her into writing: The Girl In The Other Room 2004 had half a dozen songs co-written with him, the whole album having a more spikey, contemporary feel, and it only sold half as many copies as The Look of Love. Christmas Songs came out in 2005, and From This Moment On in 2006 was a big band set with Clayton/Hamilton. There have also been Live In Paris 2002 on CD and DVD, Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2004 on DVD, a CD single 'Temptation' in 2004 (the other song was 'I'll Never Be The Same'), and a 'Very Best Of' compilation CD in 2007.

Quiet Nights was announced for 2009, reuniting her with Ogerman, and to be her tenth collaboration with producer Tommy LiPuma. Meanwhile she had given birth to twin boys in 2006 and her whole life had changed; 'Peel Me A Grape' is a fine song, she said, but it wasn't for her anymore. The new album was comprised of 'serious' love songs, the title tune a bossa nova classic by Antonio Carlos Jobim with English words by Gene Lees.  Whatever she wants to play and sing, her musicianship will keep her on top for a long time to come.