The material itself doesn’t dwell on loss, however. Instead, the tunes seem to trace the arc of a love story from the swooning early enchantment of “Like Someone in Love” and “Isn’t It Romantic,” through the bewitched giddiness of “Moonglow” and “Blue Skies,” to the nocturnal reflection of “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” The result is an unexpectedly joyful and romantic album, albeit one tinged with the clear-eyed maturity of an artist in her early 50s. “I was coming out of a very sad time,” she explains. “But it’s nice when the music gives you a mirror and actually shows you what’s happening while you’re in it. It reveals happy and positive things, songs about being in love.”
As the songs took shape the musical approach also evolved from her initial intention to make a more lush orchestral date to three small ensembles: one a reunion of the trio that recorded 1997’s Love Scenes, with Christian McBride and Russell Malone; the second a quartet with guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton Jr. and drummer Jeff Hamilton, all frequent collaborators; and finally an Americana-tinged quintet with versatile guitarist Marc Ribot, bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan, longtime Bob Dylan bassist Tony Garnier and drummer Karriem Riggins, a constant in Krall’s bands for 20 years.
In the transition from a more sweeping orchestral album to the relatively scaled-back session that Turn Up the Quiet became, one contribution that was unavoidably reduced was Alan Broadbent’s orchestral arrangements. Over Skype from Hamburg, Germany, though, Broadbent insists that such shifts are just part of the process. “My job was to enhance a feeling that was already there,” he explained. “It wasn’t trying to impose an arrangement on top of the music but to get inside of it, to color it a little and paint a quiet picture of what Diana was trying to express. You have to be willing to sublimate yourself into what exists.”
If her thriving career inevitably takes time away from her actual family, Krall has compensated by forming a close itinerant family of musicians and collaborators. Aside from the long tenure of many of the musicians on the album, she’s worked with Broadbent, whose light touch is still an important factor in the mood of Turn Up the Quiet, since she was 19 years old. LiPuma was a formative influence throughout her entire professional life, making his passing feel like the close of a chapter.
“Tommy just got it,” Krall says. “He knew what I was trying to do, and he said he was there to help me realize how to do that. His enthusiasm was key. He would sit right here [next to the piano] with the headphones on and look for the magic performance.” That extended to the work that she and LiPuma did together in 2012 on Paul McCartney’s album Kisses on the Bottom, which Krall in 2015 called “the greatest experience of my life along with working with Tony Bennett and Ray Brown. I’ve worked with lots of different artists and Paul, besides being someone I respect as an artist, is such a great human being. I couldn’t express more what a joyful experience that was working with him and Tommy. He’s such a gentleman.”
“I just want to recapture the feeling of those Jimmy
Rowles/Billie Holiday or Ben Webster/Teddy Wilson
records, the Oscar Peterson Trio, Ella and Louis —
those tempos. I still have youth in me that just wants to
swing and hit hard, but I’m not afraid to be relaxed.”
Those stories can come from any number of places. Wallflower may have been particularly unexpected, culled from radio hits that were popular during her high school days and rendered in a decidedly non-jazz fashion, but Krall has always peppered her sets with pieces from outside the standard repertoire. At the Academy of Music in Philadelphia this summer, the set list interspersed songs by Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell with Irving Berlin and Jobim classics.
She admits to being defensive about Wallflower for a time, and she took issue with the detractors who pointed out the lack of jazz feeling or her own piano playing on the album — which she insists was all by design. “It wasn’t a jazz record, sentiment, saying, “I didn’t set out to make these songs into new jazz standards; I just wanted to interpret them the way they were originally written and recorded, just with a different vibe.”
While those tunes may themselves be decades-old classics by this point, they still may take a large portion of Krall’s audience by surprise. Overheard at the Academy of Music, one audience member tried to bring her whitehaired companion up to speed, reading off names like Mitchell and Costello to blank stares until mentioning that one of Krall’s mentors was the late Rosemary Clooney. “Now, that name I know,” the woman asserted.
“I made the record before the election, but there was still so much being said all the time. It’s ‘Breaking News! Breaking News!’ every five minutes. So I think we need a break, to have a little laugh and a little romance, light some candles. Not shut the door and refuse to deal with it, but just get away from it for a minute because it’s always there. There’s so much to be upset about; you could be doing that all the time, but there are other things in life."
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