DIANA KRALL – TURN UP THE QUIET
You only need to hear a few bars of Diana Krall’s new album Turn Up The Quiet to sense the joy the artist took in making this recording.
“Lately, I find myself out gazing at stars” are the first words that are heard. The singer’s voice is confidential but her eyes are not bedazzled, only open to wonder and little wonder given the beautiful, lyrical bass intro by Christian McBride that precede this opening statement.
Minutes later, the same voice asks, “Isn’t It Romantic?”, with such tenderness that it is hard to disagree. The guitarist, Anthony Wilson and vibraphonist, Stefon Harris help her complete the picture.
Among the finest interpretative vocalists of the day, Diana Krall is first and always a jazz pianist. Her touch is discreet but also full of swinging, playful humor, and never more so than during her solo on “L.O.V.E” and the carefree introduction to “I’m Confessin'”.
This time out Diana is most determinedly a bandleader rather than a featured singer.
She has chosen the repertoire, conceived the ensemble arrangements and gathered three distinct bands for the sessions.
Turn Up The Quiet is a co-production with the late Tommy Lipuma, producer of many of Krall’s most acclaimed albums, including, “All For You”, “When I Look In Your Eyes”, “The Look Of Love” and “Quiet Nights” and once again recorded and peerlessly engineered and mixed by Al Schmitt at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, California.
The album begins with a trio of Diana, Christian McBride and guitarist, Russell Malone, who then take a marvelous ride through “Blue Skies”. This line-up also returns near the close of the record to be at the very heart of “Dream”.
A quintet with Karriem Riggins on drums and Tony Garnier on bass features the fiddle of Stuart Duncan on “I’ll See You In My Dreams”, while Marc Ribot provides some of his most lyrical guitar playing on an exquisite version of “Moonglow”.
The third ensemble of Turn Up The Quiet with guitarist, Anthony Wilson, bassist, John Clayton Jr. and drummer, Jeff Hamilton provides some of the most hushed and cinematic performances of the record; “Sway” suggesting the story that continues after other movies have faded to black.
Augmented only by the most austere and beautifully chosen orchestrations by Alan Broadbent, this line-up also re-imagines Cole Porter’s “Night And Day” as a bossa nova while the poignant and swinging, “No Moon At All” is heard in a vocal, piano and bass conversation with John Clayton.
“Play something you’re comfortable with”
These were the words that jumped out to Diana when recently she happened upon an unheard cache of cassette recordings of lessons taken with the great bassist and bandleader, Ray Brown, when she was in her early ’20s.
The preceding twelve minutes or so made for emotional but not entirely comfortable listening, as the evidently nervous – “I can’t believe this is happening” – young piano student is put through her paces, learning various ways to accompany one of the giants of jazz.
The tune which Brown chose for this lesson – “How High The Moon” – was not one in Diana’s repertoire at the age of twenty-two but she gamely presses on, Ray calling out the melody and chord changes, instructing her more in what not to play, rather what should be heard.
When the class breaks down, the bassist leans over her at the keyboard and illustrates his effortless, flowing conception of a walking left-hand part and then instructs Diana to show him how she would do the same.
“Play something you’re comfortable with”, he says.
Then the unexpected happens.
The pupil begins to play…
The tune, appropriately enough, is “It Could Happen To You”…
It must have been strange for Diana to hear the confident way she walked easily in left hand, while letting the melody and improvisation unfold but such is the fearlessness of youth. Diana plays for several choruses until the teacher joins her, driving the tune on and on, exhorting her with a shoutout from …Ray Brown….. familiar from many a bandstand and some of the live records she most loved most but never imagined hearing for herself.
Eventually, the performance breaks down in mutual laughter at what had just taken place.
What was learned that day might be carried for a lifetime.
Also among these cassettes were still earlier lessons Diana took at the age of 19, when she received a Canadian Art Council grant to study in Jimmy Rowles’ front room in beautiful downtown Burbank, despite warnings that the brilliant accompanist was too elusive to be a viable teacher.
The tapes are harder to decode in the sense that Rowles had a cool, quiet wit, his murmurs and growls mere cues that Diana attend to his voicing of a chord or the phrasing of a ballad.
What made Rowles so valuable as an accompanist to some of the greatest singers of jazz and American popular song (including Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan) and the lesson to be taken from Diana’s most unconventional studies was it was that you may contemplate certain songs for the longest time before you ready to sing or play them.
The re-discovery of these snapshots of a young piano player – who was yet to assert her singing voice – had the effect of reminding Diana of the immediacy and the vivid reward of playing music in the moment. So too began the mysterious and private process of uncovering songs to sing.
Diana Krall has always reached back into the riches of past to animate and inhabit songs in the present moment but here, on Turn Up The Quiet, she takes a big deep breath with which blow any remaining dust from some of the finest leaves from that greatest of songbooks.
Themes of love and hope are to be found in her choices but this is no mere escapism. Turn Up The Quiet is the work and play of a woman in the best days and nights of her life.