Diana Krall: Too Marvelous for Words

I learned one thing on the playground basketball courts as a kid . . . if you keep on using the same moves over and over again, they stop working. You can't always fake to the left then move to the right.

Musicians are no different from hoopsters in this regard, yet they are tempted to return again and again to the formulas that worked in the past. This is all preamble to asking whether Diana Krall should return to the studio with the same musicians, the same arranger and conductor, the same languid bossa nova tempos, the same types of songs from the same era, the same producer, etc. etc. that she has worked to such perfection in the past. Okay, let's be fair, and give her credit for a striking new hairstyle. Other than that, the offerings on her new Quiet Nights CD could easily be holdovers from her The Look of Love sessions in 2001.

Krall fans will respond: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." They have a valid point. No one handles this type of material better than Diana Krall, and it is no small feat to take a song from 1937, and revivify its inner emotional life. Krall always seems to go a few steps deeper than the thousand or so cabaret performers who tackle these same numbers routinely. By the way, Krall also appears to be going deeper into her singing register these days. She takes this song in A flat, although I would think her voice would be better matched to the melody if it were a few steps higher, up in B flat or C territory. This is more like Cassandra Wilson's home turf, and it forces the vocalist to sing under much of the arrangement. An odd decision for Krall, but in some peculiar way it enhances the confessional angle of the lyrics.

So Krall makes the same move again, and I am caught flat-footed and watch her glide to the hoop. But next time down the court I fully expect her to surprise me with a pick and roll.

March 28, 2009 · 2 comments


Lee Konitz & The Gerry Mulligan Quartet: Too Marvelous For Words

The highly original alto saxophonist Lee Konitz came to prominence with small groups led by cool jazz pioneer Lennie Tristano in the late 1940s. But by early 1953 he was appearing as a featured soloist with Stan Kenton's big band. On nights off during the band's Los Angeles stay, Konitz joined Gerry Mulligan's popular pianoless quartet at a local club. "Too Marvelous for Words," with the altoist as the only soloist, was recorded live. It finds Konitz at the top of his game, generating a seemingly endless stream of fresh ideas expressed through a pure, Lester Young-influenced tone and a prodigious technique.

December 08, 2008 · 0 comments


Frank Rosolino: Too Marvelous for Words

After breaking in by scatting on Gene Krupa's "Lemon Drop" (1949), Frank Rosolino emerged during a stint with Stan Kenton as jazz's most exuberant trombonist. But singing remained central to Rosolino's shtick, providing disarming levity between instrumental levitations. If vocal shenanigans made him hard to take seriously, well, that seemed to be part of the plan. As in the opera Pagliacci (1892), Rosolino's life was tragedy set against the fašade of commedia dell'arte. Here, 17 years to the day before his gruesome filicide-suicide, Rosolino sings merrily, plays masterfully and hides malevolently behind a Ring-a-Ding death mask, too devious for words.

December 03, 2007 · 0 comments


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