At the outset of her career in the 1990s, Diana Krall appeared to be a throwback to a different, classier era — specifically, the mid-20th century, when the Great American Songbook experienced a revival in the hands of singers such as Nat King Cole. Krall’s 1996 breakthrough, All for You: A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio, deliberately paid tribute to this period, but Krall didn’t focus merely on singing the song in an old-fashioned way: as the subtitle of All for You suggested, Krall placed equal emphasis on the piano playing. It was a conscious decision that gave her music an elegance and elasticity that has served her well. Although she often returned to the classic songs written in the first half of the 20th century, Krall expanded the definition of the American Songbook to encompass bossa nova and pop/rock singer/songwriters, occasionally exploring forgotten sectors of 20th-century pop and jazz. Throughout her career, Krall has managed to balance traditionalism with a sense of stylish adventure, which has helped her retain both a jazz and crossover audience.
Born and raised in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Diana Krall grew up in a musical household. Her father was an amateur piano player and her mother was part of a choir. Krall started playing piano when she was four, and she quickly excelled. In high school, she specialized in jazz, playing it at school and at low-key local gigs. Her prowess earned her a scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, which she attended between 1981 and 1983, leaving the school so she could head to Los Angeles to pursue a career in jazz.
Krall spent three years in Los Angeles before moving to Toronto, which wound up as a waystation on her way to New York. Settling in New York in 1990, she signed with Justin Time, which released Stepping Out in 1993. Her debut earned many fans, including Tommy LiPuma, who produced Only Trust Your Heart, the 1995 album that was her first for GRP. Only Trust Your Heart was successful enough that she moved to Impulse! for her 1996 tribute All for You: A Dedication to the Nat Cole Trio.
All for You made Krall’s career as a jazz musician, earning a Grammy nomination and spending 70 weeks on Billboard’s jazz charts; in 2011, it earned a platinum certification from the RIAA. Love Scenes followed quickly in 1997, finding her working with a trio. It became her first album to chart on Billboard’s Top 200, reaching number 109; it was certified gold in 1999 and platinum in 2002. Krall stuck to standards for her 1999 debut for Verve, When I Look in Your Eyes. The album featured arrangements by Johnny Mandel, who had worked with Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett in the ’60s.
When I Look in Your Eyes turned Krall into a crossover star. Peaking at number 56 on Billboard’s Top 200, the album earned a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, the first jazz album to earn that honor since Bobby McFerrin’s Simple Pleasures in 1989. Although it didn’t take home the top award, it did win the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album on its way to platinum certification in 2000. That year, Krall went on tour with Tony Bennett, underscoring her position as heir to the throne of vocal jazz. Working with Claus Ogerman, the arranger who collaborated with Antonio Carlos Jobim during his commercial peak in the ’60s, Krall branched out into bossa nova for 2001′s The Look of Love. Released in the wake of the success of When I Look in Your Eyes, The Look of Love debuted at number nine on the Billboard charts, while snagging Juno awards for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year; it was her third album to be certified platinum by the RIAA. Live in Paris, a concert album recorded during a 2001 stint at the Paris Olympia, appeared in October 2002 and continued Krall’s hot streak: it won the Grammy for Jazz Vocal Album, earned a gold certification and peaked at number 18 on the Billboard Hot 200.
In 2003, Krall married Elvis Costello — the couple would later have twin sons in 2006 — and their relationship informed 2004′s The Girl in the Other Room. Containing six collaborations between Krall and Costello, along with covers of Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits, The Girl in the Other Room found Krall unveiling original compositions and exploring contemporary music for the first time. The risk paid off: It debuted at number four on the Billboard charts and was certified gold. Krall collaborated with the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra on 2005′s seasonal set Christmas Songs — it was certified platinum, peaking at number 17 — and she continued in this large ensemble vein for 2006′s From This Moment On, which debuted at number seven on the Billboard charts. A compilation, The Very Best of Diana Krall, appeared in 2007, and she returned in 2009 with Quiet Nights, another collaboration with Claus Ogerman; the album debuted at number three on Billboard’s Top 200 and the title track won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s). Also in 2009, she co-produced Barbra Streisand’s Love Is the Answer with her old colleague Tommy LiPuma.
Krall next reached back to early jazz and ragtime for Glad Rag Doll, a stylized collection produced by T-Bone Burnett; the album debuted at number six on Billboard. For 2015′s Wallflower, she reconnected with the classic rock and singer/songwriters who instigated her love of music as a child; the album reached number ten on Billboard. Krall returned to the Great American Songbook — and her longtime co-producer LiPuma — in 2017 with Turn Up the Quiet, an album recorded with three different jazz ensembles; it entered the Billboard charts at number 18. The following year, she teamed up with Tony Bennett for Love Is Here to Stay, an album-length tribute to George Gershwin, which debuted at number 11 on Billboard.
Krall’s next project, This Dream of You, arrived in September 2020. An effective tribute to her late producer and collaborator Tommy LiPuma, This Dream of You relied on recordings from the Turn Up the Quiet sessions. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine