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Piano and voice perfectly matched

Diana Krall doesn't improvise much, but she is a consummate jazz singer and pianist

When I Look Into Your Eyes
Diana Krall
Rs 125

If I went by the theory I accept and propound, Diana Krall in her role of singer would hardly qualify as a jazz musician. That's because as a singer she doesn't improvise much. But not only is she a consummate jazz pianist, she's also a great jazz singer. Her singing is full of jazz feeling; her phrasing has plenty of syncopation, i.e., timing of the notes away from the basic beat; and her husky voice and her choice of material to interpret top off a formidable array of attributes to stamp her class as a real, really great, jazz singer.

Then there's her piano-playing. The feeling, the syncopation you hear in her voice find their echo here. Her rhythmic, melodic and harmonic sense are above reproach. Add her improvising, which is in the best traditions of modern jazz, and you have a pianist in her own right, not a mere singer who accompanies herself adequately.

As a leader, too, she obviously picks her colleagues well. Russell Malone on guitar joins her in taking the honours for improvising, with a couple of good bass solos by John Clayton (on Let's fall in love and Do it again) and one by Ben Wolfe (on East of the sun) thrown in.

The material is varied, from ballads to fast, up-tempo pieces, some of them originally light-hearted. But whatever the mood Krall is up to it. Indeed, she informs even the more serious pieces with a touch of irony that was characteristic of the recently deceased Queen of Jazz, Betty Carter. From Popsicle toes to I've got you under my skin and I can't give you anything but love, her voice and fingers bring a fresh sound to old jazz classics and show that even if jazz singing is getting rarer it is certainly alive and well.

Only two grounds for criticism can justifiably be found: the use of an anonymous "orchestra" (mostly violins) in the background of some pieces, and the waste of a vibraphone in the hands of a veteran drummer, who throws away the potential of a classic jazz instrument. If Larry Bunker really wanted to emulate Lionel Hampton, he should have tried it when he was much younger and not been so half-hearted about it.


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