More than any version I have heard since the Frank Sinatra recordings of 1942 and 1947, Krall’s treatment of “The Night We Called It a Day” embodies the essence of the Tom Adair-Matt Dennis song.
Claus Ogerman’s writing for the London Symphony Orchestra enhances the sense of loss Krall brings to this demanding ballad, but no more than do her piano accompaniment and the support of Russell Malone, Christian McBride and Peter Erskine on guitar, bass and drums. The maturity of her lyric interpretation is apparent everywhere in the song, devastatingly so in the ache she imparts to the crucial line, “…but the sun didn’t rise with the dawn.” She displays the musicianship undergirding her vocals in a piano solo that builds from a carefully considered single-note line into rich chords and an allusion to Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance,” which was first recorded the year after she was born. The woman is a listener.
The 10 pieces in the album are classics from the era when great songs made the hit parade; when, for that matter, there was a hit parade. “Love Letters,” as slow as Shirley Horn might do it, is notable for Krall’s diction and her concentration on the meaning of the words. It has another good piano solo and a gorgeous Ogerman coda for strings. In “Cry Me a River,” she’s as sultry as Julie London, and she puts irony into the lyrics. “Now,” she sings, “you say you love me.” Except that “‘S Wonderful” is in E flat rather than F, Krall does the song as Joao Gilberto sang it on his 1977 Amoroso album, one of Ogerman’s last nonclassical projects until this one. Her approach follows Gilberto’s right down to a rise to the 6th rather than the written fall to the tonic at the end of the first eight bars, and his scrunched phrasing going into the last eight. Dori Caymmi’s guitar brings a nice touch to this bossa nova.
Here and there on the album, Krall gives short shrift to vowels that would have been more effective if she had held them. It happens in “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” but it is an oversight easy to forgive when she uses the chestiness of her low tones to impart regret to Hoagy Carmichael’s lyric, “What a guy, what a fool am I….” She sings “Besame Mucho” in properly accented Spanish over the buoyancy of Jeff Hamilton’s drum patterns. “I Remember You” has a vintage Ogerman woodwinds-and-rhythm introduction and a huskiness in the vocal that fits the sentiment of the song. Here and in “Dancing in the Dark,” Krall’s keyboard contributions amount to noodling over interludes by the Los Angeles Session Orchestra and the London Symphony.
The quality of Krall’s few piano solos may make some listeners wish that there were more, but Verve’s marketing and promotion are aimed at following up the success of her When I Look in Your Eyes CD and transforming her from a mere platinum seller into a full-fledged pop-vocal star. The packaging is pure pop-no liner notes, lots of photographs by sensuality expert Bruce Weber, credits for makeup and wardrobe people. It would be considerate of art directors at Verve and too many other labels to stop printing dark letters over dark backgrounds in CD booklets. Some buyers actually try to read the words. There is an absence, I am happy to report, of the endless succession of thank-you’s that infests so many album packages.
There is no pop compromise in the music, however. “The Look of Love,” written in 1967, is the most contemporary piece on the CD. The songs, including Burt Bacharach’s title tune, are superb. The arrangements and performances enhance them. Krall’s singing has improved with her every album. It is at a high level. If her record company can make her a major star with albums this good, and if it doesn’t push her piano further into the background, serious listeners should have no complaint.
Doug Ramsey - Jazz Times
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