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BACKSTAGE: Krall on Elton
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Jazz singer Diana Krall talks about her number one fan Elton
12 November 2002 @ 23:26


The silky-voiced and delectable jazz singer Diana Krall, a firm favourite in Elton’s household, returns the compliment, with some insightful comments in an engaging interview with earlier in 2002. Here we offer you the choice cuts of a wide-ranging one-to-one as Krall readies to enter the mainstream music scene with her new breakthrough album The Look Of Love. Didn’t Elton write a song for you?

Diana Krall: He did, but I haven’t recorded it yet. Elton wrote the music and Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics. He gave it to me for The Look Of Love, but I stuck to standards. I’m always one album ahead, but I’ve been performing Elton’s Border Song and Joni Mitchell‘s A Case of You, so I may in the future do something that is interpretations of contemporary composers. With The Look of Love I was concentrating still on a Frank Sinatra concept record. Elton was cool with that. He was like, “whatever you want to do with that, it’s yours”. It’s kind of overwhelming to have Elton John write a song for you. What’s the title of Elton’s tune for you?

Diana Krall: I’m keeping it under wraps for now. What’s it like to play a pop tune when you’re a jazz pianist?

Diana Krall: It’s great. I play Border Song as a second encore, if I get one. I think jazz is about a way of doing things, which means I can do anything I want to do. I’ve been playing that tune since I was 12 years old, and Elton John tunes, and Supertramp. Blue Moves was probably the most interesting Elton John record of that period, like the last most interesting one, until this new one which is reminiscent of Madman Across the Water and Tumbleweed Connection. It has the same kind of gritty, really in-your-face quality. It’s really, really good. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, I think. Elton’s style is quite different from the jazz repertoire you usually do, isn’t it?

Diana Krall: Oh, it’s totally different. But he can sit there and talk about Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane and he knows what he’s talking about. He is a very, very, brilliant guy. We’ve talked about Coltrane and Nat Cole. He came to my gig one night and he said, “I heard that Keith Jarrett in there!” He knows what’s going on. He was involved with jazz in London before his pop days, with Long John Baldry and Elton Dean.

Diana Krall: Well, that’s where he got his name from. You know the story.

Diana Krall: Oh yeah. I’ve been reading that interview with him in Uncut. So I think that’s important to know, that I grew up listening to Nat (King Cole) and Bill Evans and Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, but I was also a kid listening to and playing Elton John and the Beatles and Supertramp and Queen. Queen was my big band. I was in the basement, practising Bohemian Rhapsody from A Night at the Opera along with the rest of the Wayne’s World crowd. I was a normal kid, playing pop music, but I never thought when I was practising the songbook of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road that I’d be singing Border Song with Elton John when I was 36. It’s crazy, and weird. It’s important too. It’s important too to know that in my best-of list are Edgar Meyer doing Bach Cello Suites, Mahalia Jackson, Live At Newport 1958, Frank Sinatra, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, any Rosemary Clooney record, Joao Gilberto, Amoroso/Brazil, and Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn, And His Mother Called Him Bill.  So your favourites don’t always feature vocalists…

Diana Krall: No, well it’s not always about singing but great timing, just as it is with comedians. My favourite comedians are Tony Hancock, Sid Caesar and Jack Benny. Hancock’s Blood Donor, if you’re familiar with that, or Ham Radio Operator–my sister and I quote that all the time.

I also listen to a lot of Annette Hanshaw, Bing Crosby, and Bill Challis arrangements with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and Jean Goldkette. I listen to a lot of the Boswell Sisters. I listen to a lot of early, early Bing Crosby. That’s broad, but people who love your jazz work may be mystified by your appreciation of Elton John.

Diana Krall: What do you mean? Well, it’s not as musically sophisticated as your stuff.

Diana Krall: That’s the thing that’s very important for you to understand–that I’m playing a Joni Mitchell tune every night Joni is understandable because the chords are very interesting and she’s had strong associations with jazz players like Wayne Shorter, Larry Carlton, Jaco Pastorius and Charles Mingus.

Diana Krall: Everybody has their quirks. I mean, look at Christian McBride. His guy is James Brown; he wants to be James Brown. For me, I can listen to Dvorak‘s Cello Concerto over and over again. But it’s also important to crank up your stereo in your car and play Aerosmith. Elton’s music has always been really important to me since I was a kid. And if you listen to Blue Moves, the Brecker Brothers are on that record. Take a listen to it again; it’s his most non-commercial record.

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