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Diana Krall Reflects on Her Creative Process, Her Late Producer, and an Emotive New Album

M. McCartney

“I think so much of what I do is intuitive,” says Diana Krall. “It’s based on a feeling.”

That musical and emotional intuition has anchored one of the most successful careers in jazz. Since she self-financed her first album more than 25 years ago, Krall has become a leading steward of the Great American Songbook, with a few Grammy Awards and a slew of gold and platinum albums to show for it.

Like her friend and collaborator Tony Bennett, with whom she recently released a Gershwin album, Love Is Here to Stay, Krall carries the conviction that these songs can speak to our moment, even as they communicate something timeless.

Another person who shared that conviction was Tommy LiPuma, who signed Krall to the GRP label in 1994, and produced or coproduced most of her albums since. LiPuma died in the spring of 2017 — shortly before the release of Krall’s Turn Up the Quiet. At the time, she paid a visit to WBGO to speak with Michael Bourne on Singers Unlimited, and perform with her trio.

Her new album, This Dream of You, features material recorded during the same span of time, largely with LiPuma in the studio. Krall enlists three different bands, drawing on the depth of her rapport with ace musicians like guitarists Anthony Wilson and Russell Malone, and bassists John Clayton and Christian McBride.

In this special edition of The Checkout, Krall spoke with me from Vancouver, British Columbia, where she lives with her husband, Elvis Costello, and their sons. We talked about the difficulty of this period of time, and the comfort music brings. Krall also opened up about her early years as a pianist and singer, the quiet sanctity of her creative process, and the elusive magic that LiPuma could unlock in the studio.

“I don’t feel like I’m a nostalgic person so much,” Krall says. “I feel like we have to look at where we are now and be present, to have the courage to talk to our children that art is a right that you have in order to express yourself.”

Reflecting on the title track of her new album, and its only contemporary song, she adds: “I can’t really say what Bob Dylan was thinking when he wrote ‘This Dream of You.’ I just have my own understanding of it from my imagination. My job is to make you feel your own feelings in the songs that I’m singing. I think that is how I’ve always been as an interpreter of these great short stories.”

Diana Krall’s This Dream of You is available on Verve; listen here.

The Checkout is produced by Simon Rentner. Subscribe on SpotifyStitcherApple Music and Google Play.

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A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.