eliza berkon is a journalist and musician based in washington d.c. 

Diana Krall on jazz, recordings and Elvis Costello

With a new album and world tour, Grammy-winning jazz artist Diana Krall is rather busy. The Canadian pianist and alto will share her smoky sotto-voce sound at Wolf Trap on June 24, with favorites from her 14-record discography, including her latest release, Turn Up the Quiet.

When you’re approaching standards you haven’t yet recorded, how do you develop a unique interpretation?

I come up with about 50 songs, and then we just try them. It’s more about getting a vibe rather than the kind of tracking idea, where you start with something, then you put layers on, then you add to things. It’s more about getting a performance, and that’s what we did with this record that was different than the last record.

Do you focus more on the melody or the lyrics?

I kind of approach things as a jazz pianist; I find songs that are interesting for me that are swinging, that I can improvise over and play as jazz tunes and also tell a story with the lyrics. So it kind of goes hand in hand.

Are you at all concerned about a dwindling American audience for jazz?

There’s a lot of people who are educators who are doing amazing things. There’s so many young great musicians out there. And it’s desire—if you hear this music, and you feel it, and you want to know what it feels like to play with someone like Ray Brown, or you want to know what it feels like to play with Christian McBride, then you have the desire to pursue that.

Do you ever feel like your music influences that of your husband, Elvis Costello, or vice versa?

We share a similar love for music and the ideas of where we want to go with what we’re doing, to keep curious and interested. He’s a pretty interesting guy. [Laughs] … Right now we’re working on an animated series for Amazon, which I think is pretty hilarious.

What are you listening to these days?

I listen to the radio mostly, so I try to listen to Canadian artists like Ruth B., who I really like. I’m still going back to David Bowie. I’ve been listening to him every day lately; I don’t know why. And then I listen to classical music and what my kids are into.

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