Canadian jazz pianist and vocalist, Diana Krall’s new album, “Turn Up the Quiet,” will be released May 5, 2017. The title of the album, however contradictory, is fitting. Stripped down instrumentation serves to highlight the raw intimacy of Krall’s famous contralto. In a career that has spanned more than two decades, Krall has demonstrated that jazz is a flexible and nuanced medium through which she can express various jazz moods.
If music is a conversation, then this is one worth leaning in for. Like any number of jazz offerings, this album of classics is full of soundscapes that set a perfect tone for lyrics about moving shadows, magic, breezes playing in trees, and how all of that adds up to love, or symbolism about love.
Turn up the quiet— it at once makes sense, but also does not if a person overthinks it. What is the quiet? The obvious answer is the singer’s voice. Krall’s contralto is at turns raspy, husky, and inviting. It does not scrape or strain at either end of her range, and thus is used to full expressive capacity. On this album, each word matters. The singer’s clear delivery takes the intimacy up one notch, and even in flowing phrases, Krall’s vocals never get messy. Even in what passes here for swells of instrumentation, the vocals do not get lost, and the conversation continues.
Part of Jazz History
In a year (2017) when jazz is celebrating a century, Krall’s new release reminds audiences not of the earliest jazz, the good time, rollicking sonic adventure that set censorious minds ablaze with ideas of good society’s corruption because of its presence, but the jazz that grew out of the developments in the form several decades ago—the jazz of the sophisticate, the urban and urbane, and maybe even the aficionado. This is a collection of quiet celebration, of a century’s worth of improvisation and practice.
A New Twist
Not all of Krall’s work is characterized by the understated elegance found here. This is a decidedly mature album compared to 1996’s “Love Scenes.” One of the standouts on that album was Krall’s take on the 1962 classic, “Peel Me a Grape,” that anthem of the hard-to-please woman. There, Krall was more interested in being heard. On “Turn Up the Quiet,” she seems more interested in participating in a conversation.
The conversation that Krall invites listeners to is not a full-throated, typical good time. It is not a fest of bent notes and strident tones guaranteed to keep ears ringing long after the playing is complete. Instead, this is (relatively) understated romance at its North American best. In an age where technology does the work that throats and larynxes used to, hearing Krall use her voice as the instrument that calls audience hither is refreshing. The pared down sound is the quiet that we didn’t even know we needed. Krall is turning it up for our appreciation, and it worth a listen, or two.