In 2017 Multi-Grammy Award winner Diana Krall issued two albums, her own brilliant Turn Up the Quiet and her collaboration with Tony Bennett, Love Is Here to Stay. It would appear that the pandemic being what it is, she does not want to stay away from the radar for too long and returns with This Dream of You, much in the vein of her most recent solo effort as these sessions also come from 2106 and 2017. Krall’s career was built on interpretations of the great American songbook to which she again returns as if it’s an endless well.
Singing in her signature hushed, ever-so-sultry, oft times whispery style, you feel that Krall is speaking intimately to you in a quiet room as she begins with “But Beautiful.” This writer has criticized engineers at times for not bringing the vocalist far enough up in the mix, but engineer Al Schmitt, who is arguably the best vocal mixer in music and long-time Krall collaborator returns for another remarkable job. Yes, I know Krall takes her fair share of criticism for being “middle of the road,” “background music,” or “utterly conventional.” Yet, who can argue with her fluid piano playing, her solid arrangements, or even her choice of material. These are great songs, and she has some of the best musicians on the planet surrounding her in quintet, quartet, trio and duo settings as she plays bandleader. It’s a co-production with the late Tommy LiPuma, who passed in 2017. LiPuma was instrumental in building her career, beginning in 1995 and at least through eight albums, including the acclaimed. All for You, The Look of Love, and Live in Paris, all of which preceded Turn Up the Quiet.
Li Puma’s posthumous biography, written by Ben Sidran, The Ballad of Tommy LiPuma, came out earlier this year. One of the chapters reads “The House That Diana Built” – Here’s a memorable passage of how their partnership began before Verve when Li Puma and Krall were at GRP – LiPuma describes a conversation with his colleague Larry Waronker – “Larry said, “There’s this girl we’re thinking about signing. I want you to hear her.” She had made a previous record for a small company. “They played me that record,’ says Tommy, “and I didn’t like it -it sounded like cocktail music from a hotel lounge. Not wanting to shut the thing down totally; I said to Larry, “Do you have anything else by her?’ Larry played me a video she had done for BET, just hear at the piano singing ‘Body and Soul,” and that just knocked me out. I immediately got a sense of how great she was. Of course, later, things got bigger and bigger, I thought ‘Thank God they played that second thing for me’ or I could have passed on Diana Krall.”
As mentioned, the album begins with the hushed tones of “But Beautiful” with Krall in a quartet with long-time colleagues bassist John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton and guitarist Anthony Wilson, who also play on “Almost Like Being in Love,” “That’s All,” and the closer, “Singing in the Rain.” On the opener Krall is also supported by a 20-piece string orchestra arranged by Alan Broadbent. “Autumn in New York” finds Krall in a trio setting, accompanied by Christian McBride on bass and tender guitar picking by Russell Malone, both of whom, like the quartet, graced Turn Up the Quiet. For the duo sessions, Krall is accompanied by Clayton for “I Wished on the Moon” and then performs two vocal tracks with pianist Broadbent on “More Than You Know” and ever sultry “Don’t Smoke in Bed.”
Again, most elements from the preceding album are in place as the quintet of Karriem Riggins on drums, Tony Garnier on bass, Stuart Duncan on marvelous fiddle, and stellar guitarist Marc Ribot, return for three selections – “Just You, Just Me,” Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean” and Bob Dylan’s title track on which Randall Krall adds accordion, collectively transforming it into a highly melodic tune. The various configurations and most notably Duncan’s energetic fiddle work and Ribot’s quirky guitar add some needed variety as the material is eminently familiar and finessed by the pure jazz accompanists.
As one who has many Krall albums, this will undoubtedly satisfy her listeners who came aboard as she was building her career playing standards and those who enjoyed her past two efforts. This Dream of You is a solid entry, though surely not the strongest in her storied catalog. These seem to be outtakes of the 2017 sessions that produced Turn Up the Quiet, and as such, represent a nod and thank you to the late LiPuma and to the cast of musicians that support her with a combination of flowing lyricism, subtlety, and elegance.