- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2006

Diana Krall

From This Moment On

Verve

Diana Krall has always been a crowd pleaser. So it makes sense that for “From This Moment On,” her 10th album, the Canadian singer-pianist has returned to the kinds of interpretations of the standard songbook that made her a star.

Her 1999 Verve debut, “When I Look in Your Eyes,” won a Grammy for best jazz vocal and was the first jazz LP nominated for Album of the Year in a quarter-century. She turned decisively to renditions of songs by greats such as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter with her follow-ups, “The Look of Love” (2001) and “Live in Paris” (2002). The former reached No. 1 and sold 1.6 million copies in the U.S., while the latter was another Grammy winner and reached Billboard’s Top 20. With these successes, Miss Krall became a bona fide crossover superstar.

Then she varied the formula. Her 2004 album, “The Girl in the Other Room,” featured contemporary takes on covers of tunes by Mose Allison, Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell as well as six of her own songs co-written with her then-new husband, British rocker Elvis Costello. It was a brave risk that didn’t quite pay off. The album sold 860,000 copies in the U.S., half as many as “The Look of Love.”

Miss Krall rebounded, however, with last year’s successful big-band holiday album, “Christmas Songs.” With “From This Moment On,” she marks a full return to the jazz standards she has been playing since she began learning piano at age 4.

Four of the album’s 11 tracks were arranged by Miss Krall, with her quartet accompanying; the rest feature the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra — also featured on “Live in Paris” and “Christmas Songs”— and were conducted and arranged by bassist John Clayton.

The opening track, “It Could Happen to You,” doesn’t seem to herald much of a comeback. It’s a bit of a bland take on the classic song, although Miss Krall’s keyboard wizardry continues to dazzle. But the second song, “Isn’t This a Lovely Day,” emphatically confirms her return to form. Miss Krall’s light but smoky voice enchants on this Irving Berlin tune, and her phrasing, on this and just about every track, is exceptional. Miss Krall’s piano playing has had a positive influence on her vocals in this sense. (She didn’t start singing until she was 24.)

Terell Stafford’s muted trumpet — a standout on “Isn’t This a Lovely Day” — sounds wonderfully old-fashioned throughout, while Jeff Clayton’s alto sax solo is also notable on an album filled with great instrumental backing.

Miss Krall may not have a great deal of range, but she does very well with what she has. On the samba-influenced “How Insensitive,” however, her usually smoky voice sounds light and delicate.

“From This Moment On” has more of a swing feel than much of Miss Krall’s earlier work, yet she always sings with a restrained, cool style. The Rube Bloom-Johnny Mercer tune “Day In Day Out” really moves, but Miss Krall never takes it over the top — a temptation few singers could have resisted.

Miss Krall does take something of a risk with her cover of the Richard Rogers-Lorenz Hart composition “Little Girl Blue” from the musical “Jumbo.” This touching song already has been done by such legends as Nina Simone, Janis Joplin and Rosemary Clooney (who was a friend of Miss Krall’s). Miss Krall, however, makes it her own, giving it a more spare, stripped-down reading than it has often received.

On the final track, “It Was a Beautiful Day in August /You Can Depend on Me,” Miss Krall can’t help showcasing her talents and reminds us why so many people have fallen in love with the honey-tressed blond from British Columbia. Her voice is lush while singing “Darling, I must confess,” and when she continues with “I’ll be lonely,” there’s just a slight tremolo on that last word.

Very, very cool indeed.

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