Canada’s first lady of smooth jazz, Diana Jean Krall was born in Nanaimo, BC in 1964. She grew up with her father playing the piano and her mother singing in local choirs, and she was tinkling the ivories herself by age 4, and singing and playing in restaurants by 15.
She earned a scholarship and attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music, but deciding studies weren’t for her, she left for LA in 1991 to seek her fame and fortune. Playing in lounges and in slightly more formal settings, she learned the business of live performing, but was homesick and eventually moved back to Canada, settling in Vancouver. There, she was eventually noticed and signed to independent Justin Time Records, and with producer Jim West released her debut album, STEPPING OUT, in ’93. With John Clayton on bass and drummer Jeff Hamilton, the only original tune Krall wrote herself was “Jimmie.” The other 11 tracks were personal picks from her long list of jazz favourites, including “I’m Just a Lucky So-and-So” and “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me,” both co-written by Duke Ellington, as well as “Straighten Up And Fly Right” by Nat King Cole.
The album’s rawness and purity caught the attention of producer Tommy LiPuma, who agreed to work with her on her sophomore record. She signed with GRP Records, and she recorded some sessions with LiPuma at New York’s Power Station in the fall of ’94. With an expanded sound compliments of Stanley Turentine on tenor sax, ONLY TRUST YOUR HEART was released the following February. Eventually the album was certified gold for 50,000 units sold in Canada, and the bossa nova title track was a standard of the genre, and unlike her debut album, this one was all covers. And along with another Ellington tune, “Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don’t Tease Me),” critics began taking notice, and the record clawed its way into Billboard’s top 10 Jazz Albums list.
Nat King Cole was one of Krall’s biggest influences, even from the beginning, and she paid tribute to the late star in 1996 with the all-Cole covers album after switching to Impulse Records. ALL FOR YOU: A DEDICATION TO THE NAT KING COLE TRIO. Along with spending 70 weeks on the Billboard jazz charts, it was nominated for a Grammy Award.
LiPuma returned as producer for the third straight record, when she followed it up with LOVE SCENES a year later. Along with her were guitarist Russell Malone and Christian McBride on double bass, and the album was a romantic foray into jazz, with covers of Geroge Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is The Ocean.” The album topped Billboard’s jazz chart and she earned her first double platinum record in Canada (200,000 units) and platinum in the US for one million copies sold, as well as her first Juno nomination, the first of 21 in her career.
Krall became the first artist in a quarter of a century to have a jazz album nominated for a Best Album Grammy in 1999. Although WHEN I LOOK IN YOUR EYES didn’t win, it did take home the award for Best Jazz Vocal and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Along with LiPuma, David Foster and Johnny Mandel (who also served as conductor) helped produce it, and with a swelled line-up that included a dozen musicians in total and the London Symphony Orchestra, the album earned her first Juno for Best Vocal Jazz Album. The record also featured the song “Why Should I Care,” co-written by Clint Eastwood, and was named one of the top 10 jazz albums of the decade by Billboard Magazine.
In August 2000, Krall was paired on a 20-city tour with Tony Bennett. They appeared together on her fiancee Elvis Costello’s TV program, “Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…” The same year, she was awarded the Order of British Columbia.
In 2001, she recorded the song “I’ll Make It Up As I Go” for the movie, “The Score,” starring Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando. After moving over to Verve Records, she took home three Junos in ’02 after the release of THE LOOK OF LOVE in 2001, recorded over four months in New York and in LA. Backed by the title track penned by Bacharach and David and Hoagy Carmichael’s “I Get Along Very Well Without You,” it became her biggest selling album to date, certified seven times platinum at home, selling over 1.6 million copies in the US, 100,000 copies in the UK, and 50,000 in Brazil.
The record also exposed her to a new audience, when a special version of it was released in the US in Target stores in time for the holidays, which contained “The Man with the Bag” and “Charmed Life,” the first time Krall released her own composition since her 1993 debut album. As a result, the album also made waves on the adult contemporary charts in North America, the UK, Germany, and Australia.
With the exception of LIVE IN PARIS in 2002, which was named her fifth Juno winner (Best Jazz Vocal Album) and featured covers of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are”, she’d taken the better part of two years off from major tours and appearances to recharge her batteries and concentrate on life outside of music. She lost her mother to multiple myeloma that year, and later became an honorary board member and spokesperson of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. The loss occurred mere months after two of her idols also died, Ray Brown and Rosemary Clooney, whom she’d done a duet with on Clooney’s last studio album.
In 2003 she was given an honorary Ph.D. in Fine Arts from the University of Victoria. She married Costello that December at Elton John’s estate outside London, and returned to the studios, releasing THE GIRL IN THE OTHER ROOM in the spring of ’04. Along with covers of Tom Wait’s “Temptation,” Joni Mitchell‘s “Black Crow,” and Costello’s “Almost Blue,” it also featured six tracks she’d written with her new husband, including “Departure Bay” about her hometown of Nanaimo, and “I’m Coming Through” is a tribute to her mother. The album sparked more of a pop, and less towards a jazz, attitude towards her recordings. Practically overnight, the album was in the top 5 on the pop charts in Canada and in the UK, and also made the top 40 in Australia, and sold well in South American and Asian markets. The single “Temptation” even reached the top 40 in the US on the pop chart.
Recordings were sparse over the next couple of years, but in 2004, she made a guest appearance on Ray Charles’ GENIUS LOVES COMPANY album, peforming on the duet, “You Don’t Know Me,” the same year she was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame and released the album and DVD, LIVE AT THE MONTREAL JAZZ FESTIVAL.
A year later, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and also released her first holiday album, the Juno Award-winning CHRISTMAS SONGS, featuring a dozen Yuletide classics from the likes of Irving Berlin, James Peirpont, and Mel Torme.
Her highly anticipated return to the studios resulted in 2006’s FROM THIS MOMENT ON, debuting at home at #1 on the chart. Certified double platinum and topping the jazz and the pop charts in Canada, it also marked the reunion with producer Tommy LiPuma, and earned her a Juno for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year, the eighth time she was on the podium with an acceptance speech. The album was also nominated for a Grammy the following year.
Largely now returning to life outside of music (including raising twins born on her and Costello’s third anniversary in ’06) the label released THE VERY BEST OF DIANA KRALL in 2007, which nicely wrapped up the artist’s career, but included no new material. A year later, the live album IN CONCERT (I’M DOING ALRIGHT) was on the shelves. Also in 2008, Nanaimo Harbourfront Plaza was renamed Diana Krall Plaza.
In 2009, she lent her expertise in a production role on Barbara Streisand’s LOVE IS THE ANSWER album. She’d returned to the studios herself the year before, releasing the critically acclaimed QUIET NIGHTS in March, 2009. Returning to her smooth jazz roots, it also marked the reunion with arranger Claus Ogerman, sho she hadn’t collaborated with since the 2002 LIVE IN PARIS album. The title track earned Ogerman a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist, and was one of three bossa nova standards written by Jobim.
QUIET NIGHTS debuted at #3 and eventually topped the Canadian albums chart. It also debuted at #3 on the US Billboard chart, selling over 100,000 copies in its opening week. The record debuted at #1 on the top Jazz Albums chart, earning her ninth #1 album in the US. Throughout Europe, it also peaked in the top five in Austria, France, Greece, the UK, Norway, and Spain, and topped the charts in Hungary, Poland, and Portugal. The iTunes version of the album also featured a pair of bonus tracks, the jazz standard “I See Your Face Before Me,” and a cover of The Beatles’ “For No One.”
In the middle of a year-long world tour, she released the CD and DVD, LIVE IN RIO later that year.