Pop divas come and pop divas go; jazz divas are forever. Diana Krall is somewhere in the middle, a lounge-singing sensation with the bestselling jazz recording in history-her sixth album, The Look of Love-living in New York, chumming with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Sting and making the big bucks.
Only trouble is jazz buffs aren't learning to Krall very easily. They say her piano playing is virtually non-existent on some tracks, some of her renditions of classics have a Disneyesque feel and her sultry glam packaging is just that; making her a blonde Linda Ronstadt in Ella Fitzgerald land.
Except Linda can sing.
The self-confident Krall is used to such sniping.
"I had a poster of Peter Frampton and a poster of Charlie Parker in my room when I was a teenager,"; she says. "But for you jazz police out there, don't worry-I arranged them so they couldn't see each other.";
Trumpeter Chet Baker and guitarist Mark Knopfler are two other range-challenged musicians who've made the leap to the microphone with alluring and understated vocals that are easily engulfed by orchestration.
In contrast to the over-the-top wailers like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, Krall thrills her listeners as a relief, as an antidote.
Besides, anyone named Jazz Vocalist of the Year by Down Beat magazine can't be all pop.
Diana Krall is not the Anna Kournikova of jazz. She's 37. And she wins.

"She's a genuine jazz artist, whether she wants to go that way or not,"; says Jamie Reid, author of Prez: A Homage to Lester Young.
"Either way, she should be feted in her own country and especially in her own region.";
In his biography-tinged tribute, Diana Krall: The Language of Love (Quarry $24.95), Reid has been won over by her looks and music. Describing a Paris concert he writes, "She is almost without make-up-with only a hint of pale lipstick on her full and sensuous lips. She looks for all the world as if she has just come on stage from washing her face, her transparent complexion youthful and dewy, fresh as an adolescent's. Her teeth are as white and straight as the keys on her Steinway grand.
"She has all the beauty, poise and allure of a ravishing star of the silver screen, a Veronica Lake or a Lauren Bacall, and all their mysterious cool reserve.";
Whoa! If Diana Krall and her management were a tad worried about the contents of this unauthorized study, well, they needn't have bothered. Reid has accepted, and he clearly enjoys, Krall's appeal as a musician, woman and artist. "I'm not really on a mission to tell anybody anything,"; says Krall. "I'd rather be figured out.";
Reid's song-by-song analysis of her renditions is spot-on. Along the way he's detoured for plenty of space-filling about jazz legends to educate the non-jazzified reader. It's a much-better-than-workmanlike job considering the time constraints Reid was under. She should be so lucky when an authorized biography is written.
The most important parts of Reid's documentary trace her beginnings on Vancouver Island. This is information that can't be easily found on the Internet.
After Diana Krall was born on November 16, 1964, she was raised by supportive and loving parents. Her dad, Jim, was a chartered accountant.
Her mum, Adella, was an elementary school teacher-librarian. Both played piano and sang. Her aunt had performed in vaudeville. Her Dad was a collector of old 78s and wax recording cylinders. Old music was good music.
On Sunday nights they'd meet at the home of her grandmother, also a musician, for sing-songs of pop tunes, hymns and Celtic folksongs. Krall first took classical piano lessons at age four from a
neighbour, Audrey Thomas. Thomas remembers her protégé liked boogie-woogie.
By age 15 Krall was playing professionally at two Nanaimo venues, the NHL and Chez Michel. Her school band leader Bryan Stovell, no slouch himself on the bass, introduced her to jazz. Thriving on Stovell's mentorship, and learning to perform in the Nanaimo restaurant 'n' bar scene, Krall won a Vancouver Jazz Festival scholarship to study at the Berklee College of Music in 1981.
At Berklee in Boston she studied piano with Ray Santisi. "As a pianist, she was always into economy,"; he recalls. "She has said that she took a cue from comedians Alan King and Jack Benny whose punch lines were very economical. Diana has always been aware that you don't have to go grandstanding to make good music.";
In the States for more than a year, she retained her somewhat stubborn respect for the old tunes and the old guys, particularly Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. "I was a huge, huge fan,"; she says of Sinatra. "I consider him the greatest pop singer of all time."; Bennett, however, would turn out to be closer to her heart. She would credit the crooner for much of her success as a vocalist.
As for female vocalists, Krall liked Dinah Washington, Roberta Flack, Carmen McRae, Nina Simone and Shirley Horn. But Diana Krall: The Language of Love reveals that Krall possibly found her greatest female influence as a musician on Vancouver Island. Every Saturday, for most of a year in the 1980s, Louise Rose drove up the Malahat to meet Krall at Malaspina University-College for individual lessons.
Louise Rose had studied with Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson and Leonard Bernstein. An accomplished recording artist and an ordained Baptist minister, Rose was the real deal-probably the first professional female musician that Krall knew. Now the musical director of the Victoria Good News Choir, she can regularly be seen on Vision TV's Let's Sing Again program as a pianist.
"I vividly recall her first piano lesson,"; she told Reid, "because she was so nervous that she had small puddles of perspiration in each hand... The most important thing I showed her was how to sing and accompany herself in the honoured style of those who'd preceded her.";
The tall, buxom, warm Afro-American preacher and teacher received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from UVic in 2001. She passed along to Krall what she calls 'the lesson of all lessons' that she had received from Oscar Peterson: the most difficult thing for artists is to learn to play like themselves.
"People compare her to Ella Fitzgerald,"; says Rose. "They say Diana doesn't have any range. What a pity that we don't have the means to appreciate without making silly comparisons. But there is only one Ella, and there is only one Diana, too.
"Diana has the range that she has, and she uses it. She doesn't pretend to be anything other than she is. And you have to be confident about who you are in order to play like yourself.";
In other words, do people complain that Neil Young doesn't sound like Placido Domingo? When Miles Davis became internationally known, Louise Rose says, he was beset by "the jealousy of nay-sayers, a kind of self-loathing. If you're black you can't become too famous, or you will be accused of losing your soul. Similarly, Rose defends the deliberate portrayals of Krall as an ice-queen goddess. "Come on! She's a sensuous, full-bodied woman, and she wants to show it!";
The big break for Krall came in Nanaimo, not New York, L.A. or Boston. Back in 1983 she was doing gigs in Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Victoria and other Vancouver Island towns with bassist Rick Kilburn who had played for two years with Dave Brubeck and seven years with Mose Allison. He, in turn, was the son of Jim Kilburn who'd played with her high school mentor Bryan Stovell at Vancouver's Cellar club in the early '60s. Still not singing much, Krall attended the annual jazz festival across the border at Port Townsend.
In Port Townsend Krall met a drummer named Jeff Hamilton. He was playing with a legendary jazz great, Ray Brown, a husband of Ella Fitzgerald and a sideman for Dizzy Gillespie and countless others. Brown, as it turned out, was a frequent visitor to Nanaimo. He liked to jam there at a restaurant called Tio's, named after its Vietnamese owner. Back in Los Angeles Jeff Hamilton encouraged Ray Brown to check out the blonde babe in Nanaimo who could really, really play.
That's how Diana Krall's career began. Brown and Hamilton, two L.A. heavyweights, arrived for dinner at the Krall's place and jammed in the Kralls' living room. Hamilton assured Krall's mother that her daughter could make it in jazz; Brown, in his 70s, suggested studying down in L.A. Another jazz great, Jimmy Rowles, became her teacher. And by necessity, Diana Krall found her voice.
"I went down to this little club to hear her,"; Ray Brown recalls. "She was kinda sad. I said, 'What's wrong?' She said, 'They're going to revoke my [green] card'. And for some reason... I don't know what this law was, but they said if she sang, she could stay, but if she didn't sing, she had to go back to Canada. So I said, "Hell with it, sing. Go ahead and sing!";
Lacking confidence in her low voice, Diana Krall says she would initially sing "only enough to keep the gig.";
And the rest is herstory. 1-55082-297-7-[BCBW Alan Twigg AUTUMN 2002]