Though there are relatively few stalwart jazz followers out there who know it, it’s Diana Krall’s album All for You (A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio) that remains the strongest and most satisfying of her growing discography. Nestled comfortably among the five works of standards-filled jazz numbers she’s offered thus far, it represents the singer-pianist’s craft far better than her most recent work, When I Look in Your Eyes, though the latter is the one making people’s ears perk up.
What’s not to like on Eyes? Not a whole lot. It has lush strings and an orchestra to back up Krall’s take on the world of jazz love songs and is as gorgeous a listen as the thirtysomething native Canadian. However, if you really want intimacy—if you strive to hear the whispered vocals of today’s answer to Julie London—then All for You is where you should lay your plastic.
All for You (A Dedication to the Nat King Cole Trio)
(A Dedication to The Nat King Cole Trio)
Now, granted, Krall sounds little like Cole, but that matters little. John Pizzarelli’s tributes to the late singer—Dear Mr. Cole and P.S. Mr. Cole—are much more in the same vein as what the Nat King Cole Trio did (though Pizzarelli opts for his guitar over a piano). That aside, both started out as pianists before branching out into singing. Krall does all her own piano playing on this album, which is so good it threatens to best her work at the microphone. And, if you’re able to catch her in concert and she lends the ivories to someone else for a number or two, chances are she’ll offer little sideways glances towards the pianist, just making sure things are getting done right.
Krall’s vocals are as gorgeous and laid-back as they can get. With the absence of a drummer from this trio setting—with guitarist Russell Malone and Paul Keller on bass—it’s next-to-impossible to ignore her collection of mostly ballads. Not that you’d want to keep her out of your head, anyway—if anything, you find yourself wishing that her near-whispered vocals were even clearer than they already are, that you might feel literally closer to the singer-pianist somehow. Her voice is unmatched in the realm of jazz singers today. Rather than Krall fading away into obscurity anytime soon, her unique talent for reading the all-too-familiar songs will place her comfortably in the rich history of jazz.
The trio does venture into quick-paced territory sporadically, most notably on “Frim Fram Sauce” and the opener, “I’m an Errand Girl for Rhythm”, with the noted change in its title to match Krall’s gender. On both, and especially on the lightly swinging “Hit That Jive Jack”, the instrumentation is as tight as it is impressive.
Still, it’s the syrupy slow songs that make this an album hard to beat and more in love with things of the heart than her Love Scenes, which followed. Don’t be surprised if “You’re Looking at Me”, played as a duet here with Malone, causes misty eyes. “A Blossom Fell” is, hands down, one of the most beautifully sung songs ever, period. Her inclusion of it is a tribute not only to Nat, but also to his younger brother, Freddie. After seeing him sing the song live, it was a shoo-in for inclusion among the rest, as she explains in the album’s liner notes.
As far as awards are concerned, All for You was Krall’s first Grammy-nominated effort, though only her most recent album has allowed her to take home a couple of them, Best Jazz Vocal Performance included. While notable, winning the award doesn’t allow for things like better continuity and better overall performance.
Oh, and sexiness. This album is amazingly sexy. Sexier than the photos of both the blue-jeans Krall and the white-pantsuits Krall, featured on the inset and back covers, respectively. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.