Diana Krall On Handling Grief and “Finding Joy In Everything”
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.”
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.
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