No wallflower herself, Canadian artist and mother of twin boys Diana Krall could easily be found producing a new Barbra Streisand record, dabbling in Brazilian pop, or working on a ’30s jazz collection, the latter of which she co-wrote with her musician husband, Elvis Costello.
On Wallflower (Universal Music), the five-time Grammy Award-winning singer/pianist has deviated from her signature jazz style to offer fresh takes on pop classics from the ’60s to the present day, all of which have played a role in her own career.
“I mean, I’m not scat-singing through the Eagles,” she says, “so I’m not trying to make these songs into jazz songs. That’s what I feel is really beautiful about it.”
Breathing new life into tracks by – to name a few – the Eagles, Crowded House, Bob Dylan, and even an unreleased Paul McCartney tune, Wallflower shows Krall in an eclectic new light. “I was musical director and pianist on Paul McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom,” she recalls. “He wrote a few romantic tunes of his own to put among the Cliff Edwards and Fats Waller songs. It was my very good fortune that this song didn’t make the record. I asked Paul if I could record it and he said, ‘Sure’.”
It’s been a tough six months for Krall, who was forced to postpone Wallflower’s release after a bout of pneumonia last September. Her condition became so severe she cancelled all promotional and touring activity for several months. That wasn’t the only setback for the artist; in December, she lost her father to a long battle with illness.
While Wallflower was recorded prior to this, Krall’s famous, beautiful melancholy is more noticeable than ever.
One of Wallflower’s memorable tracks is the singer’s raspy rendition of Crowded House’s seminal hit Don’t Dream It’s Over. “In 1986, I was playing small jazz gigs in Los Angeles and studying piano with Ella Fitzgerald’s accompanist, Jimmy Rowles. I remember lying on the floor of my little apartment in Pasadena, listening to this Crowded House tune. Just like now, it was a song of hope.”
This time around, the artist has handed over some of the control to 16-time Grammy-winning producer David Foster, who has injected some string-heavy production and lush orchestrations into the record to create unexpected moments.
“It was fun and really easy to let go of so much responsibility that I’ve always put on myself to be the arranger, to be the band leader, the piano player … so it was really, really nice to go into the studio and just sing.”