The depth of feeling which lies behind the beautiful facade of Diana Krall's highly successful releases has always been known to her most appreciative listeners. However, with her latest album, The Girl In The Other Room, Krall not only illustrates her understanding of the breadth of possibilities in the jazz idiom but also reveals her talent as a songwriter.
Indeed, the title song of the record is a Krall original. While some may be attracted to the lyrical portrait of a mysterious woman distracted by love (and note in passing that the words were co-written with Elvis Costello), the ear is drawn to the elegant and effortlessly swinging accompaniment of Krall's piano and that of her long-time partners in rhythm: Jeff Hamilton on drums and bassist, John Clayton.
For much of the album, the musical support comes from drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Christian McBride. The inventive and sympathetic guitar playing of Anthony Wilson is heard throughout a record that which also features drummer Terri Lynne Carrington and Neil Larson sitting in on Hammond B-3 for one cut.
The album is the first co-produced by Krall and her long-time producer Tommy LiPuma. Recorded at Capitol Studios, Hollywood and Avatar Recording, New York City, the sessions were engineered throughout 2003 by another long-term cohort, Al Schmitt.
Listeners used to Krall's intimate and seductive interpretations of standard ballads may be surprised at first by her present choice of composers. Take a listen to her take on Mose Allison's timely blues, 'Stop This World' or the driving and joyfully carnal 'Love Me Like a Man' (with its final chorus salute to Count Basie) and you will hear a singer, bandleader and piano player in her top form.
Krall's sensual approach to Tom Waits' 'Temptation', with its extraordinary introduction by Christian McBride, is balanced by Krall's own exquisite preface to a most tender rendition of Elvis Costello's 'Almost Blue'. A beautifully reflective version of a relatively obscure standard, 'I'm Pulling Through', recalls the style of her teacher, Jimmy Rowles.
The spirit of Rowles and an apprenticeship of the jazz club experiences is inspiration for one of Krall's new compositions, 'I've Changed My Address,' only as Krall reflects, revisiting some of these venues can be a shock: 'Everything looks pretty much the same but the place is now a sports bar and there is pool table where there used to be a piano'.
While so much of the music is new, the album itself recalls a vinyl disc of two sides. The bold and flowing solos from Krall and guitarist Anthony Wilson on Joni Mitchell's song of travel, 'Black Crow', announce a series of original songs that speak of family and of love, but also of enduring the grievous loss of a parent. As Krall explained recently: 'I went through a series of deep personal losses and changes. So...this is what I did instead of shutting the door and saying "I can't deal with it"'.
So it is that the gospel changes of the hopeful 'Narrow Daylight' give away to the sophisticated blues of 'Abandoned Masquerade'. It is this song that most clearly expresses the need (for now at least) for the singer to step out from behind the beautiful romantic illusions found in so many songs of the past. Once again, the music leaves the listener in no doubt that they are hearing the work of a jazz composer.
The gently defiant tone of 'I'm Coming Through' marks another subtle shift of musical scene with wonderful playing from Anthony Wilson. The content of these last songs is undoubtedly the most specifically personal material yet recorded by Diana Krall.
The album closes with perhaps the most deeply felt of the self-composed titles. 'Departure Bay' contains vivid and touching images of her hometown of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island but also a wrenching description of her family's first Christmas without her mother and a final verse that welcomes new love and hope for the future.
Musically composed by Krall alone, these songs mark a lyrical collaboration with her new husband, Elvis Costello. Explaining how they worked, Krall said: 'I wrote the music and then Elvis and I talked about what we wanted to say. I told him stories and wrote pages and pages of reminiscences, descriptions and images, and he put them into tighter lyrical form. For 'Departure Bay,' I wrote down a list of things that I love about home, things I realised were different, even exotic, now that I've been away'.
Songs often suggest and recall moments in our own lives and listeners must surely be aware that Diana Krall's previous recordings contained many personal but private meanings for the artist. On The Girl In The Other Room, what was once partly hidden has been brought beautifully into view.
'The thing about Diana is her musicianship,' Al Schmitt said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. 'More than most singers, she knows what's right for her, and she knows how to make it happen musically.'
'Nothing that Diana Krall does could be less than classy. There are a couple of absolutely terrific performances here, namely Mose Allison's 'Stop This World' and Arthur Herzog's 'I'm Pulling Through', in which her expressive voice and muscular piano work display their customary magic.' The Guardian
'The Girl In The Other Room is a tumultuous journey into her dark corners of grief, with only flickers of hope and warmth. And this is not an album full of covers either. She co-penned six out of the 12 tracks with new hubbie Elvis Costello. Her collaboration with Costello isn't the main reason for this side-swerve. While working on the album her mother passed away from cancer at 54. Krall's grief, heartache, and a gradual re-engagement with her life are all found in this emotionally turbulent album. Her soul is laid bare. Her secret world opened up. And this is all heard through a filter of dusty jazz and midnight blues. Yet this album doesn't just take you on Krall's journey, it's not that self-indulgent. The lyrics are universal, the jazz a whole tapestry of moods. The Girl In The Other Room is a melancholy and beautifully-crafted body of work, full of evocative images and sounds. It not only shows Krall to be a superb song-writer but also the real woman behind that elegant poster-girl.' MusicOMH.com
Diana Krall piano, composer, vocals, producer
Anthony Wilson guitar
Christian McBride bass
John Clayton bass
Terri Lyne Carrington drums
Peter Erskine drums
Jeff Hamilton drums
Neil Larsen hammond organ
Engineer, Mixing, Surround Mix: Al Schmitt
Producer: Tommy LiPuma
Mastering: Robert Hadley and Doug Sax