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For a change, Wallflower doesn't feature Diana Krall playing the piano; instead she left that task to her producer-arranger David Foster so she could concentrate on just singing for a change.

Jazz diva pays tribute to heroes and legends

Diana Krall returns to Singapore next month for two shows on the back of her critically acclaimed and commercially successful pop album, Wallflower.
Jan 8, 2016 5:50 AM

THERE is no question that Diana Krall lives and breathes music. Speaking over the phone from her home in Vancouver just before Christmas last month, names of her musical heroes - including her husband, Elvis Costello - slip in and out casually of the conversation.

It's only apt the jazz diva pays tribute to a handful of them on her latest album, Wallflower, originally released early last year.

Billboard ranks it as the second best-selling jazz record of 2015 (behind Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga's Cheek to Cheek) and it marks the first time she is tackling pop classics instead of her usual jazz standards.

Most are familiar middle-of-the-road adult contemporary gems from the seventies and eighties. The album includes songs like 10cc's I'm Not In Love, The Mamas and Papas' California Dreaming, The Eagles' Desperado and I Can't Tell You Why, which Krall grew up with.

The 51-year-old has been touring behind Wallflower since its release before taking a year-end breather to be home with her family. The Australasian leg kicks off later this month and includes two shows in Singapore in February. The last time Krall played here was in 2008.

Even though she is promoting the new record on the road, the concerts will feature songs outside of it.

"We change the setlist and I don't go on autopilot," she says, "I'll look at my band and ask, 'Do you want to play this (song)?', so it's structured yet loose."

The players accompanying her on stage are bassist Dennis Crouch, keyboardist Patrick Warren, fiddler Stewart Duncan, guitarist Anthony Wilson, and drummer Karriem Riggins who has worked with Krall for almost two decades. They have been performing as a six-piece band, with her on piano and vocals, for close to five years now.

It's a far cry from the recording sessions for Wallflower which comprised mostly just her and album producer David Foster working together in the studio.

"I've known David for a long time - we're both Canadians and come from towns close to each other; he's a large part of my starting out and I said, 'We should make a record together'," she shares. "He was also president of (legendary jazz record label which Krall is signed to) Verve so it was the right time; I told him I wanted to make something with vocals and put things in his trust."

She adds it was Foster's idea to cover pop songs instead of her usual jazz standards. "We thought we should pick something that everybody knows and of course we picked a Bob Dylan song that nobody knew," Krall jests, referring to the obscure title track which was originally written and recorded by Dylan in 1971 but remain unreleased until it finally appeared on his box set The Bootleg Series Volume 1-3 in 2011.

Wallflower is not the only lesser-known song on the album; the record also includes the original If I Take You Home Tonight, a track which Paul McCartney originally wrote but never recorded himself.

For a change, Wallflower also doesn't feature Krall playing the piano; instead she left that to Foster who arranged all the music. "I don't often do something like this but David is really like a genius; he plays jazz piano and is an amazing accompanist," says Krall, "I enjoyed working as a vocalist and that gave me a chance to focus on singing."

The 16-track album has been recently re-released as an expanded edition - Wallflower: The Complete Sessions - with four bonus songs. It includes a duet with fellow Canadian female singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan on a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's If You Could Read My Mind, as well as Krall's take on Neil Young's Heart of Gold, Fred Neil's Everybody's Talkin' and Joni Mitchell's A Case of You.

Krall claims she did not cover any of her husband's songs - Costello and her both previously collaborated extensively on her 2004 album The Girl in the Other Room - this time because his range is "too difficult" for her. "I love all his records for different reasons and I think Painted from Memory (1998) is a masterpiece but you need a big range to do it."

Despite how well-received Wallflower has been for both her fans and critics alike, Krall states she is unlikely to do another pop record. "I'm moving forward to the next thing," she reveals, "But who knows, I could also do an album of Tom Waits' songs!"

Diana Krall's The Wallflower World Tour will come to the Esplanade Concert Hall on Feb 16 and Feb 17 at 8.30pm. Tickets from S$68-S$500 available at Sistic and the venue.