When the buzz of Diana Krall started happening in jazz and slowly crossing over into pop, that’s when I decided to check out what she was about. People and critics were both praising and criminalizing her first album for Impulse called All For You (A Dedication To The Nat King Cole Trio), with some wondering if people are really getting into her husky vocal tones, her talents on the piano, or if she was being sold as another pretty face and sexy body doing jazz. It would lead to a number of cover stories in jazz magazines which questioned not so much Krall, but jazz’s outlook on music. There are countless jazz albums that are praised simply for showing a seductive lady, yet female jazz musicians are sometimes ignored or neglected, sometimes not even called worthy as their male counterparts. Meanwhile, many musicians were saying that it was and should never be an issue, that if one celebrates music, keep it that way, for nothing else should matter. Krall’s popularity kept rising, moving into the pop world but never quite embracing super stardom. Other artists would come and go, then there would be a younger generation stepping to the forefront. Suddenly, Norah Jones was the it woman of jazz, only for Jones herself to knock herself out of jazz while keeping her Blue Note credentials in her pocket. Krall’s buzz returned to normal levels, and she kept on touring, writing and making great music, all while maintaining a family with her musician husband, Declan. 19 years after the release of her debut album, Krall is still here, proud, and keeping audiences happy, although she’s very aware of public perception and balancing that with what she enjoys doing: making music.
Glad Rag Doll (Verve) seems to have a number of meanings. Her image has been molded into something sexy, and this time she allows herself to be seen with nylons and a garter belt. Very boudoir, right? The title itself may be tongue-in-check too: while it comes from the old 1928 song of the same name, one may view it as the music of a rag doll that is quite happy and content, Krall herself. One could easily see her throwing out the joke of her being treated as the equivalent of a “glad rag”, the slang term for a homemade disposable tampon. That might sound extremely disgusting, but she was treated as complete crap for no reason, other than that she was a woman being celebrated in “the man’s world of jazz”. Or if she is the simplified “glad rag doll”, she is now that doll grown up: mature, dignified, and not afraid to look and feel comfortable, even if one has to look a certain way to sell a few copies of an album. It’s okay, Krall is someone else behind the clothes, hair, and make-up. Any insults thrown her way can and will be shrugged off, but if you’re grown and mature enough, you may be welcomed into the concert hall.
Glad Rag Doll features songs that she had been listening through years of gathering and collecting 78rpm records, as a means to listen and enjoy, as well as to learn. Some of these may be songs by artists that are celebrated but aren’t well known, or for songs that are very obscure that it may take a bit of research time to find out about their background. Instead of placing a date or era on this material, she performs them in her own way as a means to bring them life, and maybe in a way to bring back the feeling of what it may have been like in the era when these songs were new, vibrant, and exciting, a return to simpler times when things weren’t so contrived. Krall has always been an incredible pianist, and while it may be her voice that lures some in, when she dances both of them together, it is that recipe that has made her a personal favorite. Pieces like “I Used to Love You But It’s All Over Now”, “I’m a Little Mixed Up”, “There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears” are still as powerful now as they were in their original versions, and the many covers that may have been released. One may not remember the original artist or songwriters, but the power in them is in the lyrics and the melodies that give it strength. Outside of it being a reflection of what was, it could also be a response to what isn’t, in terms of what may be lacking in a lot of today’s music. Or maybe that’s not even a thought, it’s just a way to share an exchange of the songs that made her even more determined to share the stories of the past in her own way.
Then again, Krall has never forgotten the past in anyway. I remember when I bought her album The Look Of Love and it reached the final song, “Maybe You’ll Be There”. The compassion of the song with its longing for someone missed, complimented by an orchestra that pulled the heartstrings, is considered to be of the best, when the best music has no age or time limit. Music and songs don’t have to fictitiously die just because the human condition says it’s the right thing to do. Music ages, and so do we, and Krall seems to be someone who is at peace at time and age because it is her peace, no one else. We live and experience, and in time we depart. Until then, we grow wiser and hope to continue living and experiencing, whether it’s through out own intuition or the wisdom of those of the past. Glad Rag Doll is presented as a grand show, and at least through music, we don’t have to care about anything else but what we hear and why it affects us so deeply.