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Melancholy is OK, but I prefer jazz to this
on October 11, 2012
All musicians have to decide whether to play the same songs the same old way or whether to re-invent themselves periodically. With some, like John Coltrane, this is a continuous process, and so listeners come to expect something different with each album. With others, like Paul Desmond, he played the same way (or an approximation of it) his entire career. Sometimes, an artist with play one way for a while and then switch gears. Miles Davis comes to mind - he went from playing classic small group jazz with his original quintet, to modal jazz on Kind of Blue, to post-bop with the quintet with Wayne Shorter, et al, to fusion and so on.
Diana Krall has the tough job of deciding who she wants to be and whether to sing standards in a small group setting or whether to branch out. She has obviously chosen the latter, having recorded albums with a big band ("From This Moment On"), of originals ("The Girl in the Other Room") and with strings ("The Look of Love"). Glad Rag Doll is the latest effort to re-create Diana Krall.
This is not Krall's best effort. She makes a game attempt, but the instrumentation and arrangements do not showcase her voice or piano, and the songs have a limited emotional range. There is a "thump-thump" quality to the rhythm section which was probably intentional given the pre-bop nature of the songs being sung but given the musicians, is not done effectively. There is a lot of twangy guitar (and banjo and dobro) which is not going to be what Diana Krall's listeners want to hear.
The best songs on this album, not surprisingly, have the least thump-thump and twang. Glad Rag Doll, Prairie Lullaby, Here Lies Love and I Used to Love You are probably the best numbers on the album and allow Krall to sing in her breathy way without the distraction of too much thump and twang.
I suspect that this will be a controversial album in Krall's oevure and that she will seek to re-invent herself from time to time. I agree with reviewers who think that her best albums were recorded earlier when she played with her trio and did standards and straight-ahead jazz. Like many jazz artists who have had to go commercial for her record label, she still does mostly straight-ahead stuff in concert. I hope that Krall's next effort will be jazz.