In the world of jazz media, much has been made over the last decade or so about the "young lions," young upstart musicians who have splashed onto the jazz scene with technical brilliance and bravado. Almost exclusively, this term has been applied to a very focused musical demographic: young black men, nearly all of whom are instrumentalists. In recent years, however, the title of "young lion" has been expanded to include the vast array of talented new jazz artists, many of which are not black, male, or instrumentalists. Particularly strong in recent years has been the emergence of a new generation of jazz singers. For several years, fans of jazz singing have had little new worth sinking their teeth (or ears) into. But recently, a number of new singers have exploded onto the jazz scene, and have brought not only a deep breath of fresh air and talent to this genre, but their own artistic styles and offerings as well.
For the men, John Pizzarelli, Kevin Mahogany, and Kurt Elling have excited fans with hope for the future. On the feminine side, however, the prospects look even brighter, with the likes of Diane Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, and Dee Dee Bridgewater. After the smashing success of her last album, the Nat King Cole tribute All For You, Diana Krall firmly entrenched her place among the "young lionesses" of jazz singing. And so, amid great expectation, Krall and producer Tommy LiPuma deliver Love Scenes, her new album which she is supporting with a hearty sized tour and various promotional appearances.
Love Scenes showcases Krall's duel talents as singer and pianist. Filling out the trio format is Krall's regular guitarist Russell Malone, and bass phenom Christian McBride. Together, the three create a lush atmosphere for Krall's ballad selections and a swingin' groove for her upbeat vehicles. The disc starts out quickly with a very upbeat treatment of the standard "All or Nothing At All." From there, the trio swings into the undeniable highlight of the entire disc, the confidently seductive "Peel Me A Grape." Krall teases and preens with an assuredness well beyond her youthful age. Krall explains in a short promotional video for the album's release that she picked this particular song because she and her sister considered a Blossom Dearie version their parents owned as "one of their favorite songs." Whatever the reason, Krall's treatment stands a good chance of becoming a signature song for her.
The up-tempo feel continues through "I Don't Know Enough About You," and then turns slower and more lush and romantic as the trio glides through "I Miss You So," "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "Lost Mind". The classic "I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You" floats in on Malone's strumming intro, and entices the listener with Krall's whispery vocals to come on in, take your shoes off, and get comfortable. "You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me" bounces along McBride's hoppy bass line and is the most like the material on All For You. "How Deep Is The Ocean (How High Is The Sky)" crawls and "My Love" picks up a little, showing off McBride's virtuosity and feel for the bass.
Krall has created a great deal of excitement in the jazz community, and this disc is an excellent showcase for why. Krall's sense of swing and rhythm are refreshing, and her treatments bring a playfully indulgent element to them. Her choice of sidemen displays a wisdom and taste to be envious of. In all of the hub-bub around her singing ,though, her talent as a trio pianist is sometime lost, and that should not be. Not only does she swing confidently on the keys, but grapples with the all important issues of touch and note selection on the softer ballads.
In a business where success and recognition can takes decades, Krall has been lucky enough to enjoy both while still fairly young. Lucky for the fan of vocal jazz as well, as we will hopefully be able to enjoy the talent of this young artist for several of decades to come.
Highly recommended - 4 Stars (Out of 5) ****