Friday February 4, 1:09 am Eastern Time
By Aleksandrs Rozens
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Diana Krall comes across with the breezy, assured poise of Lauren Bacall and her husky voice makes you want to ask her to recite a snippet from Bacall's movie ``To Have and Have Not,'' but the giddiness of her recent dinner with Rosemary Clooney betrays a youthful enthusiasm.
Krall, speaking with Reuters by phone from a hotel in Los Angeles, has a lot of reasons to be swinging on a star. The Vancouver, British Columbia-born pianist and jazz singer has had her 1999 recording ``When I Look In Your Eyes'' (Verve Music Group) nominated for album of the year by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
It is her third record to be nominated for a Grammy Award but this is the first time a jazz recording has been nominated for the coveted album of the year spot since Bobby McFerrin's 1988 release ``Don't Worry, Be Happy.''
Krall was nominated in 1998 in the best jazz vocalist category for ``Love Scenes,'' and her recording ``All For You'' was nominated in 1997 in the best jazz vocal performance category.
``When I Look In Your Eyes'' has been nominated in two other categories as well: best jazz vocal performance and best engineered album in the nonclassical category.
Munching on soybeans and relaxing after her frenetic recent schedule of television appearances, where she has performed a bossa-nova-style cover of Cole Porter's ``I've Got You Under My Skin'' that is featured on her latest record, Krall gushed about Clooney, 71, who she says is one of her heroines.
The two have just recorded ``The Boy From Ipanema,'' a twist on ``The Girl From Ipanema'' written by Brazilian Antonio Carlos Jobim and sung by Astrud Gilberto. ``We sang it as a duet. It took us two takes. She is the closest thing I have had to the relationship I had with my grandmother,'' she recalled fondly.
``It's not because of the age but she's so real. She is still touring and doing it. She works very hard,'' said Krall, 35, herself no stranger to the rigors of touring.
Last year she toured 300 days in the United States, Europe and Japan. So it should come as no surprise that she admits to wishing for three months off to lock herself in her New York City apartment with ``a million records and practice all day.''
SOMEBODY IS DRONING
Krall grew up in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island where her parents nurtured her on jazz. There were 78 r.p.m. records and cylinders and songs of Ella Fitzgerald and Fats Waller echoed in the household. ``My parents were not professional musicians, but it was an incredibly musical household,'' she said.
Krall started playing piano at the age of 4 and her first classical piano teacher would play Albert Ammons boogie woogie after their lessons.
Tommy LiPuma, chairman of Verve Music Group and producer of Krall's four jazz recordings, believes this early exposure to jazz classics helped Krall master Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Jerome Kern. ``It's a matter of phrasing and knowing how to phrase these things. She was nursed on this stuff,'' he said in an interview.
In high school, Krall was introduced to the piano work of jazz musicians such as Bill Evans, whose 1962 recording ``Polka Dots and Moonbeams'' she still enthuses about. She recalled that there was a passion among her high school teachers for jazz: ``The teachers had their own big band.''
When she was a 9-year-old her voice already had its hallmark huskiness. ``I auditioned for choir and my voice was too low,'' she said. ``I kept trying to push it to go higher and I failed the audition. I wanted soprano but I should have been stuck in the back with the boys.''
Singing was mandatory at school and Krall rebelled against being left out of the choir. ``I'd sing out of tune on purpose until he (her teacher) would come with a ruler and say 'Somebody's droning. Somebody's droning.' And the second he would walk by me I would sing perfectly in tune. He could never figure out who did it,'' chuckled Krall, whose music has been featured in films such as ``Midnight in The Garden of Good And Evil,'' ``True Crime'' and ``Random Hearts.''
ON THE ROAD WITH KRALL
In her teens, Krall studied at a jazz camp where she met some of her jazz heroes and there were performances in a local restaurant. She went on to study at Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts, but some of the greatest influence on her work came from Jimmy Rowles, her teacher and a pianist who played for Benny Goodman and accompanied Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald.
Krall's style has been likened to Lee's and her latest recording conjures up Lee's 1963 recording ``I'm A Woman.''
Rowles and Ray Brown, a bassist, bandleader, composer and arranger with whom Krall recorded, ``were my mentors,'' said the singer who has written some of her own songs but prefers to interpret music written by others. ``Rowles is one of the great people you have to listen to,'' she said.
``Hopefully you will hear similarities. Rowles used to describe his voice as a canoe being dragged across a road. I have a similar ski- or snowboard-being-dragged-across-a-road (voice),'' she joked.
Much of Krall's music education over the years has been conducted in piano bars. ``I wanted to support myself by playing piano and singing. I had a three-year gig in Boston. I lived in New York and I would commute to Boston,'' she said.
``Go to any bar across America and you will find some piano player/singer there pouring their heart out,'' she said, adding that in Hawaii recently she sat in on some sessions with a hotel bar band.
Some of her early piano playing and singing took her to little hotel bars across Europe. ``I spent a lot of time playing in miserable places that were not a lot of fun,'' she said, adding ``Somebody once said it is character-building and I was like 'My character is just fine.' It was just challenging.''
But, Krall says tours overseas taught her about solitude and how to make the best of it when you are on the road alone.
``Sometimes, in different cultures, they don't talk to you. You are the piano player and you just get to watch and observe people,'' she said. ``I think the great inspiration in life is people around you. Hey, it's right out there.''