- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

Jazz musicians aren't supposed to find their albums in the Billboard top 10. Nor are they likely to expect old-guard jazz greats to come out of retirement to arrange classic songs on their behalf.
For Diana Krall, these are the fruits of a career that has opened up the American songbook to a new generation of fans.
"There's some lovely angel on my shoulder," Miss Krall says of her splendid fortune during a break in her tour supporting her latest CD, "The Look of Love."
Washington-area jazz fans will judge for themselves when Miss Krall brings her throaty sound to the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall starting tomorrow for three sold-out performances.
Miss Krall, 37, a Grammy-winning jazz vocalist and pianist from Nanaimo, British Columbia, with sultry good looks and piercing green eyes, describes herself simply as a working jazz musician. She talks fast, with her self-effacing banter interrupted by a husky laugh.
Musicians she dreamed about as a child, from German-born composer Claus Ogerman to Elton John, are either her collaborators or fans.
When "The Look of Love" debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard charts, Mr. John sent her "the most beautiful flowers and things," she says. It was the first time a jazz album had opened in the Top 10, selling 94,000 copies in its first week just days after September 11.
Mr. John also gave her some sobering advice.
"It's about the music, Diana, don't forget that," she recalls.
Miss Krall cradles her songs with smoldering attention to detail. Her voice is a smoky instrument that sizzles and seduces as she mines the work of American composers, such as Irving Berlin, for her lamentations about love. Miss Krall has said that some of her favorite singers also played the piano. She especially cites Carmen McRae and Nat "King" Cole.
In 1999, Miss Krall won the Grammy for best jazz vocal performance for the platinum album "When I Look in Your Eyes." She also has been praised for her piano playing and for extending jazz to the mass market.
Stars and audiences alike seem to respond not only to her music, but to her very personal presentation.
"Sometimes it's too painful for me," she says of the lyrics. "I find it difficult to get out of the character [when singing a song]. It's exhausting. I feel very deeply in general. I'm hyper-sensitive."
A few dissenting voices exist about her work. Journalist and jazz aficionado Nat Hentoff sniffs that it lacks fire. Ken Burns' documentary "Jazz" on PBS neglected to mention Miss Krall when looking ahead to the genre's future. Some critics also have questioned whether her music is jazz or pop.
Miss Krall's music education officially began with piano lessons at age 4. At 15, she was playing before steak and brew houses in her native British Columbia. She also listened to her father's records by Fats Waller.
She studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston on a Vancouver Jazz Festival scholarship for about two years, and later moved to Los Angeles. She didn't start singing, though, until the late jazz pianist Jimmy Rowles persuaded her to give it a try. One of her supporters was the bassist Ray Brown, the accompanist and husband of the late Ella Fitzgerald.
Miss Krall's debut album, "Stepping Out," appeared in 1993, and she slowly built her audience.
For "Love," she collaborated with Mr. Ogerman, best known for his orchestral work with Mr. Sinatra.
"His work had a huge influence on the songs I chose," she says, a collection that features "S'Wonderful"; "Dancing in the Dark"; "Cry Me a River," which Julie London rode to fame in the 1950s; and the title track. "I wasn't gonna start picking out up-tempo numbers. It's not Claus."
She and the semi-retired musician listened to music and swapped classic movie anecdotes before he agreed to join her on the album. "We just clicked," she says. "We had no differences of opinion at all."
She likens their recording sessions to "taking a master class."
Musicians she adored, from Mr. Sinatra to Bing Crosby, translated their talents into credible acting gigs.
"It's something I really want to do," she says, before echoing advice gleaned recently from Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack. "I want to start very small on a very good part."
She apologizes for name dropping, but she cannot help it. Elton. Pollack. Even Barbra Streisand, who gushed over Miss Krall when the two met recently. Such is her current level of fame.
Miss Krall, who splits her time between New York City and Vancouver, took in a showing of "Funny Girl" at the Ziegfeld Theater a week after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington.
"It was such a sad time," she recalls. "We thought we'd walk around New York City and see films and revel in the city."
She came away in awe of Miss Streisand's performance in the movie musical. "I love people like her, she did everything," she says.

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