- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Diana Krall
Quiet Nights

Vocalist Diana Krall has put together the kind of album the music industry isn’t supposed to make anymore. It’s a lavish and clearly expensive production that recalls a bygone era of fat recording contracts, excessive studio orchestras and massive record-buying audiences.

“Quiet Nights” is, in large part, a lushly arranged homage to the legendary collaborations between Frank Sinatra and Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Recorded in Capitol Studios, Mr. Sinatra’s old stomping grounds, the album puts an extraordinary amount of resources and effort into creating a mood of low-key romance.

Much of the credit for the sound has to go to Claus Ogerman, who wrote the arrangements for the classic 1967 album “Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim.” In retracing these decades-old steps, Mr. Ogerman has created a more elegant, restrained sound. The Sinatra-Jobim collaboration has the feel of a negotiated summit between Mr. Sinatra and a foreign singing style. In contrast, while Miss Krall is the star of the album, she treats her voice like one of many instruments — an especially useful tactic in bossa nova, in which vocals provide rhythmic counterpoint to the syncopated percussion. This especially comes across in her version of the Jobim classic “The Girl From Ipanema,” substituting “Boy” in the title.

Miss Krall’s voice has a breathy, dreamy quality, and it is backed here by an orchestra of enormous proportions for a pop recording. At the same time, the soul of the album is in the collaboration between Miss Krall and her longtime backing trio — guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, augmented here with percussionist Paulinho Da Costa. Mr. DeCosta presumably is playing traditional Brazilian instruments, including the cuica drum, which creates the infectious and familiar bossa-nova rhythm.

Miss Krall’s piano playing probably is the most understated element of the album. The tinkling one-note piano lines are a signature of Brazilian pop, and on tracks like “Este Seu Olhar” — sung in Portuguese by Miss Krall — she shows off her fondness for the motif.

“Quiet Nights” gives equal time, if not equal billing, to well-known extracts from the great American songbook, including the Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart song “Where or When,” the Alan Jay Lerner-Frederick Loewe track “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” and the Burt Bacharach-Hal David pop standard “Walk on By.”

On “Walk on By,” Miss Krall allows herself a rare interlude of exuberance, singing with more elan and letting her voice creep into the lower registers.

The only false note here is Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” included as an unbilled bonus track. Leaving aside the pure schmaltz of closing an album with this oft-performed song, the orchestration here seems a bit bloated and Miss Krall’s breathless vocal style somewhat over the top. That aside, “Quiet Nights” is a gem of an album, not in the least because it blends the intimacy of a small cabaret combo with the elegance and heft of a full orchestra.

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