Diana Krall's Wallflower Tour

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Jan 24

As she prepares to kick off the Asian leg of her Wallflower World Tour in Hong Kong, jazz megastar Diana Krall talks with Josiah Ng about her love for our city, acupuncture, astronauts and, of course, her music

Jazz is frequently perceived as a complex, exclusive musical art form, perhaps too excessively steeped in history and character for the layperson. The image of a jazz musician is often that of the mysterious and eccentric genius. The guy or gal who has many vices, boasts an unforgettably way-out-there-man character, smokes too much, talks in tongues and is, of course, dripping in incomprehensible talent – often aloof and capricious. Thankfully, though, stereotypes are frequently wrong.

Diana Krall is none of the above – apart from the bit that says she’s dripping in incomprehensible talent. The Canadian jazz pianist and singer, who has sold more than 15 million albums across the world, personifies what makes modern jazz loved by so many fans. Her piano playing is sparse, tasteful and emotive. Her singing is sensual and smoky, drawing the listener in lyric by lyric. She channels the likes of Nat King Cole – who she has previously dedicated an album to – and puts the listener at ease with her delightful phrases. And yet, through all this musical perfection and ability to relax people, there’s a raw excitability in Krall which shines through as much in her personality as it does in her music. It manifests, for sure, in her love for our great city. “I’m looking forward to being in Hong Kong,” she says, “because it’s one of my favourite places to be. I have incredible memories being there. I went to this amazing fusion restaurant with all sorts of interesting people.” Krall laments the short amount of time that she has spent in our city – but she says that her Hong Kong experiences more than make up for it. “Actually,” she continues, “I had my first acupuncture treatment in Hong Kong from this amazing woman. It really kind of changed my life a little bit.” She relates the acupuncture story to a bout of pneumonia which forced delays on her Wallflower album in late 2014, meaning her 12th studio offering hit the shelves in February, last year. “We work hard on the road,” she says, “so it’s important that we take care of our bodies and figure out what works!”

Apart from health issues, touring could also make family life more difficult for the jazz giant – and by family life we mean rockstar husband Elvis Costello and the couple’s twin sons. However, Krall praises great tour management and schools who are big supporters of their family being together when they’re on the road. Her excitement, in fact, is palpable as she talks about her kids coming on tour. “We figure out, when it’s a long tour, how to bring them for a part of it,” she says. “It’s exciting for them because they’re nine years old. They just want to be with mummy and daddy – and they can do fun things along the journey. It means we’re all together.”

There’s apparently a lot of people who play a huge role in all aspects of Krall’s life. She gets excited talking about many of her friends and those who are dear to her. For instance, the star has a well-known interest in space – and she counts astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Rusty Schweickart as great pals, giving the impression that she just clicks with people who share her sense of adventure and outgoing spirit. And, for a musician, there’s no better way for the spirit to manifest itself than in his or her work. You can almost touch this adventurous-yet-soulful spirit on Wallflower, despite the fact it’s a record almost entirely made up of pop and rock covers. There’s Desperado by the Eagles, Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House and Elton John’s Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. The only original on there is actually penned by Paul McCartney and is called If I Take You Home Tonight. It’s a record that Krall is proud of, however she does acknowledge that it’s an extremely different experience listening to an album or a song when compared to seeing that musician perform on a stage. “Records are very, very different,” she says. “They don’t represent who you are as a performing artist.”

It seems that the emphasis has always been on the live performance with Krall, in fact. That’s the world of jazz she was born into. “I have a band right now where we’re playing everything from Joni Mitchell to Nat King Cole,” she tells us, “and it’s in live performances that you can never do what you can do on a record. We just play music from our own place – and it’s swinging and heartfelt. It’s really quite hard to explain unless you see it.” The ‘we’ in question is something to be excited about. The band that Krall is touring with includes renowned bluegrass musician Stuart Duncan, as well as Karriem Riggins, a drummer from Krall’s days with legendary bass player Ray Brown, who in turn worked with Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. “We have jazz and bluegrass,” she says, “and music that comes out of American roots.”

To the end, Krall is all about authenticity when it comes to her live performances. She plays the tunes closest to her heart, never boxing herself in. And, whether you like Wallflower or not, expect an open, honest, spirited performance in Hong Kong that is also all about authenticity. “I think,” she says of the forthcoming show, “the audience should expect a variety of joyful and wonderful musicians all having a blast playing together!” We’ll see you there for the blast. Josiah Ng

Diana Krall’s Wallflower World Tour Sun Jan 24, AsiaWorld-Expo. Tickets: $480-$880; hkticketing.com.hk.


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