‘Turn Up the Quiet’
Diana Krall delivers cool but sensual jazz
By EMILY REILY
Special to the Union Leader | June 07. 2017 12:56PM
Jazz artist Diana Krall brings both enduring tradition and modern improvisation to her latest album, "Turn Up the Quiet."
The Canada native, who’s been playing since she was 5, cites Miles Davis’ 1959 album “Kind of Blue” as a benchmark for the definition of jazz; it’s a timeless improvisational style of music that crosses back and forth across genres.
“It’s just so modern and cool, and that’s what people think that jazz is — just sort of for older people, and it really isn’t. It’s modern music,” says Krall.
Her latest album, “Turn Up the Quiet,” reinvigorates jazz standards such as Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” Rodgers and Hart’s “Isn’t It Romantic” and the seductive “Sway,” a bright rumba shuffle popularized by Dean Martin in the mid-‘50s, and which Krall slows dramatically and dresses up with a string section, her sensual voice and meticulous, glossy piano playing.
Krall, who will play The Music Hall in Portsmouth Wednesday, June 14, talked to NH Weekend about what makes jazz so special — and yet so difficult — to define.
What kind of jazz did you first play?
I was playing sort of boogie-woogie piano, and then when I was improvising I was playing along with a Cannonball Adderley record called “Mercy Mercy Mercy.” So I was playing sort of “Work Song” and things like that.
And then I discovered Miles Davis and that was all over ... I listened to a lot of Nat Cole. Miles Davis, I think, was the first; when I got “Kind of Blue” that kind of changed my life, and it still does. I’ve been listening to Miles Davis a lot lately.
“Kind of Blue” is an amazing album.
It’s exciting … I think it’s such a really amazing art form. We were listening to Miles Davis in the car yesterday, a live performance, and it was wild. My kids were in the back seat and we were all just (like), “Whoa.” We were all ... blown away.
And then the way he played standards as well. He was very influenced by Ahmad Jamal and Shirley Horn. It all ties into each other. It all works in different ways.
If jazz is improvisational at its core, is it hard to pinpoint just where it comes from?
I guess it’s like having a conversation with people in a different way, using instruments instead of using words. I think it’s the depth and feeling and the intensity of it that appeals to me, and the improvisational, spontaneous way it all happens in the moment. You really can’t control it. It’s this incredible spontaneous thing we do within a structure.
Could you talk about some of your favorite albums?
Well, “Sketches of Spain” (by Miles Davis), of course; Thelonious Monk, Johnny Griffin playing “Blue Skies”; anything that Louis Armstrong recorded; Oscar Peterson (with) “Night Train,”; Keith Jarrett (with) “Facing You” or ... “The Koln Concert.”
It seems like all music goes back to elements of jazz. Do you think that’s true?
Yes. It’s music for everybody. It’s a depth of feeling. It’s what makes you think, how you react to it, how you emotionally respond to it. That’s your own thing and that’s your right.
It’s like a painting: How does it make you feel? How do you explain swing? How do you explain the feeling that you get that just feels so good when you hear it? All the people I admire ... also possessed an incredible depth of feeling that can be wild and just intense as it can be quiet, powerful.
What other music has inspired you?
Anthony Wilson — that’s a guitarist that I’ve been playing with. He has an album called “Frogtown.” Check it out. I like Mark Ribot’s record “Ceramic Dog,” Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs.” I could just go on and on ... Shirley Horn, Nat King Cole, and a singer that many people aren’t that familiar with, Ernestine Anderson from Seattle.
What do you like about Anderson?
When I was a kid I wanted to sing like her and play like Monty Alexander. She sang with all my favorite players that I get to play with, like Ray Brown (bassist whom Krall studied under) and (drummer) Jeff Hamilton and (bebop pianist) Monty Alexander. She was great. I just love her, love what she does, what she did.
(Plus, there is) David Bowie, “Black Star.” I can’t get that off my playlist at the moment because he wrote so very much like Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” or Bob Dylan. All those artists are interesting to me because they’re harmonic. David Bowie in particular, how he wrote and how he worked with Maria Schneider. It’s an amazing album that just blows me away.
I love Joni Mitchell’s “Blue. To me she’s the greatest artist, along with Miles Davis or any of those people that I mentioned. She’s just as important. I don’t know, there’s nobody to compare her to, there’s just her, there’s just only her. Like Coltrane or Miles or Dylan.
She’s iconic. Like Charlie Mingus. She’s not a jazz musician, but she’s definitely doing new jazz. David Bowie, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, they were all creating music when jazz was still happening. It was new.
It still is new. That’s what improvisation is. I mean, you play jazz, it’s new every time. It’s different every time.