DIANA KRALL as part of the gala opening of the Rose Theatre (1 Theatre Lane, Brampton), Friday (September 29). $400. 905-874-2800. Rating: NNNNN
Diving into a Diana Krall interview is a daunting proposition - the most common epithet associated with the woman is "ice queen."
It's hard to know precisely how Krall's developed a rep for being so aloof. Is it her technically slick, detached delivery of neo-trad tunes? Her Narnia-regent-worthy appearance and ramrod-straight bearing? Her tendency to grumble when asked personal questions?
Due to a label miscommunication, I've kept Krall waiting a half-hour after the clipped British accent of her office assistant wakes me up at 6:45 am for our skedded interview (Universal forgot to take the UK time difference into account), and I'm terrified. Who knows what fury hath a woman delayed?
"Man, it's 7 in the morning there? Oh, god! I'm so sorry," moans a genuinely apologetic Krall over the phone. "And you sound like you were out late smoking and drinking. That's such a drag! Jeez, I'm sorry. I haven't had that feeling for... oh, about five months now, but I can sympathize."
Some ice queen. As we try to extricate ourselves from an apology death match, I start to wonder whether Krall is just misunderstood. She seems like a woman caught up in a fame bubble (one that's grown since her marriage to Elvis Costello) who's jonesing for nice, normal friends... or at least some decent conversation.
Not that she suffers fools gladly.
"I'm doing these interviews with people from all different cultures and countries, and you never know what to expect. The Italian interviewers say things like, "Diana, you're doing a duet with Tony Bennett.... Why ?' They keep asking " Why ?', and it makes me feel like I've done something terrible! What are you, six years old?
"People have different ideas about what's appropriate. This morning I had three different interviews where they asked, "What is going to be the name of your child?' Are you kidding me? It's so un-Canadian. I was shocked. They'll even ask the sex of the child."
That child, for the record, is the one Krall's expecting. Her initial comment about five months spent sans hangovers refers to the length of her pregnancy so far. Krall claims the biggest bummer about being knocked up on the road is trading her customary post-show wine for chocolate something she's grown increasingly strict about since accidentally consuming port in a melon soup in Portugal left her arms numb.
"I'm never one to admit...," she begins, then trails off. "I have incredible stamina, and I've been known to go when everyone else is dropping, but now, today, I'm starting to feel really tired. Boy oh boy.
"If you go solid for six weeks away from home without a break, any human, pregnant or not, is gonna start feeling drained."
Krall is in the middle of launching her new album, From This Moment On (Verve/Universal), a collection of generally upbeat (think the Gershwins and Cole Porter) standards backed by a swingin' band. It's less Norah Jones than Frank Sinatra, but thanks to Krall's characteristic languorous delivery and percussive piano-pounding, even the bouncier tunes resonate with a restrained version of the curious bittersweet quality the singer/pianist musters on slow-burning ballads like Rodgers and Hart's Little Girl Blue.
Krall claims those layered emotional nuances come from years spent thinking about and analyzing each song on the album, as well as her insistence on a "closed creative environment" into which she only allows her collaborating musicians and producer Tommy LiPuma.
And though it's nice to see Krall break away from the ice queen stereotype and stretch her vocal interpretation muscles to imbue heart-squeezing chestnuts like Willow Weep For Me with pathos, the most impressive thing about From This Moment On is her superlative band, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
"It's important to have a sense of collaboration, so the songs don't become all about you," offers Krall. "Instead of thinking "I hope my solos sound great,' you make it about nothing except the music. The people I play with are not just backing up a singer. We're all listening to each other.
"With a song like Exactly Like You, it sounds so honest and sweet, a true musical conversation. It's jazz. We're not overplaying solos or overdoing things for the sake of ego. With the great albums Oscar Peterson, Fred Astaire, Nat King Cole you relax into the songs and enjoy them. It takes you out of your own self-involvement."