[Dixielandjazz] Diana Krall interviewed

Robert Ringwald rsr at ringwald.com
Sun Oct 3 05:32:06 PDT 2010

Jazz Star's New Normal
Diana Krall finds it easier to be herself onstage
by Peter Hum
Ottawa Citizen, October 2, 2010

Despite her 15 million albums sold, her international tours, her Grammy and Juno
wins, her household-name celebrity and over-the-top glamorous CD covers, Diana Krall
remains disarmingly normal.
That's the impression that the Canadian jazz musician, who performs tonight at the
sold-out National Arts Centre 2010 Gala, leaves after a 30-minute conversation.
The one qualification is that in Krall's case, "normal" refers to a "normal jazz
player and music nut."
Like innumerable lesser known jazz musicians -- and many of her own fans -- Krall,
after 15 years of stunning global success, is still blown away by music when it affirms
the joy of togetherness, and even moved to tears by the mere presence of her own
musical heroes.
Indeed, for all her achievements, she still expresses the same humble musical frustrations
she likely had three decades ago. Then, she was a 16-year-old in Nanaimo, B.C., whose
yearbook description noted that she wanted to be Oscar Peterson.
What asked about what continues to drive her to make music, she instantly replied:
"I'm so frustrated. I'm so frustrated. That's what it is. I want to be better. I
want to be able to execute what's in my head, from my voice and my fingers, and I
can't do it.
"There's something -- divine dissatisfaction -- in my own work that keeps me (going),"
she says. "I don't get tired of the music."
Chatting Thursday night from her Vancouver home, where she was about to prepare a
salmon dinner for her three-year-old twin boys, Krall sounded warm, upbeat and self-effacing.
By her own admission, she was also a bit rambling, which might have been due to jet
lag. She had just returned from a three-week tour of South America.
"It's like I've been around the world in 80 days, quite frankly, just going so hard,"
she said. Last summer, in support of her 2009 CD Quiet Nights, she played a run of
European jazz festivals. Earlier this year, she was in Australia and New Zealand.
Her first concert in Canada after some months is "so important" to her, she said,
at the same time recalling memories of other Ottawa appearances.
She singles out a 1997 performance with the NAC Orchestra in tribute to the Canadian
composer and arranger Robert Farnon as a highlight of her career. She drops the name
of Ottawa pianist Norbert Boyce, whom she called a "childhood friend" when they both
lived in Nanaimo.
"He was one of the very first jazz piano players I ever met, and he was from Nanaimo.
It was pretty groovy knowing that when I went to Ottawa, I would get a chance to
play (for him)," Krall says.
She's grateful to Jacques Emond, the retired programming manager of the Ottawa International
Jazz Festival, who presented her in 1990, three years before she released her first
"I've had a lot of pretty amazing experiences (in Ottawa)," she said.
What's thrilled her the most recently is the response she gets in Brazil, where audiences
can sing along en masse with her performances.
"I just love that feeling," she says, explaining that it reminds her of her youth,
growing up in a music-loving family. "We all sang at home and played the piano --
that's what we did."
Similarly, Krall says that she and her husband, Elvis Costello, have been giving
house concerts in support of their close-to-the-heart charity, the Multiple Myeloma
Research Foundation. The star musicians auction off their talents for such intimate
shows because in 2002, Krall lost her mother, Adela, to the disease, an incurable
blood cancer. Adela Krall was barely into her 60s.
Whether she's singing in a living room or on a Brazilian festival stage, Krall hopes
she can create that sense of closeness for listeners. "I think it's important that
you all feel like you're sort of together."
Some of the impediments, she hints surprisingly, might be her much-hyped, cover-girl
image. "Sometimes it's been difficult because of the perception of my record covers
and the production of things," she says.
Krall, 45, agrees that she's found it easier over the years to simply be herself
when she performs.
"I think there's a pressure when you're younger... to be something else, or create
this kind of persona."
She speaks enthusiastically of the tremendous impressions that singers Ella Fitzgerald,
Sarah Vaughan and Lena Horne have made on her. "I saw Lena Horne at Carnegie Hall
and thought, that is just the most elegant, beautiful woman I've ever seen on stage.
Krall says she's no Horne. "I never could be. I idolized her.
"I guess I'm more kind of the Woody Allen character who is a bit neurotic," she kids.
"I think when you're young and starting out, emulating people and trying things on...
I wanted to be Ernestine Anderson on vocals and Monty Alexander or Oscar Peterson
on the piano.
"But you have to settle into who you are and take elements from all sorts of people
and carry that inspiration with you. I think that took me a little while.
"I think it takes a long time to be a jazz musician. I don't think you ever park
yourself and say 'OK, I'm here.'"
Tonight's gala raises funds for the NAC National Youth and Education Trust, which
supports programming, training, masterclasses and internships meant to instill a
love of the arts in young people.
Krall is keen to get behind the cause -- naturally so, given that her passion for
music certainly has not deserted her.
"This summer I met (jazz saxophone legend) Sonny Rollins for the first time," she
recalls. "I fell into his arms and cried... I don't know whether it was the emotion
of being on the road -- I just met him and I lost it completely."
Similarly, she gushes about being to see the 85-year-old, but eternally young drummer
Roy Haynes playing with pianist Chick Corea, who plays Ottawa Sunday night. Krall
and her band watched from the side of the stage, "freaking out," she says.
Krall said that she and her band, which includes guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist
Robert Hurst and drummer Karriem Riggins, are delving into new musical territory.
For one thing, Krall says she encourages her accompanists to challenge her musically.
"I tell them to take the twist and turn and I'll follow you," she says. "Sometimes
we're playing stuff with more of a hip-hop influence," she adds, noting that Riggins
has drummed and worked with hip-hop artists such as Erykah Badu, Common and Maxwell.
While on tour, she and her band remain immersed in music even as the wheels of their
tour bus turn. "We have iPod parties. We sit and listen to so much stuff. They push
me," she said. "I'm in a really good place right now."
Krall says her recent concerts have been more eclectic than the focused bossa nova
program of Quiet Nights.
"We're just playing a whole bunch of stuff. I'll practice a Bob Dylan tune on the
sound check and just go for it. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't.
"I'm certainly searching and I trust my audience that I can play what I want now.
It's kind of exciting to have that place in my career where I'm not just out there
promoting or doing an album tour, where I'm just playing music, and sometimes it's
Nat Cole and sometimes it's Bob Dylan or Joni (Mitchell) or Tom Waits or my husband
or my own compositions or Jerome Kern.
"I'm just going out there and saying, 'This is what I do.'"

--Bob Ringwald
Fulton Street Jazz Band
Amateur (Ham) Radio K6YBV

"Last night my wife met me at the front door. She was wearing a sexy negligee. 
The only trouble was, she was coming home."  --Rodney Dangerfield

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