Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Review: Diana Krall - Quiet Nights

It was always going to be just a matter of time before Diana Krall would make a bossa nova record. Moving on from her early piano trio days, her work has always moved towards the slower beat, and on ‘The Look Of Love’ she even hired arranger Claus Ogerman, who added a touch of bossa to proceedings.

So here it is; the ‘Diana Krall Does Bossa Nova’ album. But strangely for a bossa nova record, and even stranger given that the title of this recording is named after one of The Maestro’s more famous tunes, there is a surprisingly low number of songs here from Antonio Carlos Jobim. Instead we have three Jobim tunes mixed with a blend of songbook standards and ballads, performed in a bossa style.

‘Quiet Nights’ then is essentially the latest stage in the unjazzing of Diana Krall. Sure, there’s a hint of samba here and there, but mostly Krall operates in the slow and breathy whispery vocals that currently are bringing smiles to record label accountants everywhere with the likes of Melody Gardot and Norah Jones and their huge successes. Not that this would be too much of a problem when tackling bossa nova, but at times her voice becomes so breathy, it becomes lightweight and makes the songs sound simply tired. Worst of all, returning for his first time since ‘The Look Of Love’ Claus Ogerman again manages to cover everything in an anaemic glob.

The result is unpleasant at best. And certainly if you love anything bossa or Jobim related, I’d advise you to stop reading now and simply go and buy another copy of ‘Getz/Gilberto’ or check out anything by Eliane Elias.

‘The Girl From Ipanema’ is re-read in its boy version (always a bad start) and simply plods. Any tune or energy you’ve ever heard from this classic is replaced with sleepy drawling, the song being for some unfathomable reason being slowed down to half-speed as Krall wearily gasps the words out. ‘Quiet Nights’ too suffers the slowing down treatment, but at least retains its melody. Surprisingly, the third Jobim tune ‘Este Seu Olhar’ is actually pretty good, with a subtle arrangement and a silky vocal delivered in some very impassioned Portuguese.

Curiously the non-bossa tunes also suffer the plodding and crawling fate. Having successfully rendered ‘The Look Of Love’ completely uninteresting (a feat in itself) eight years before, attention is turned to another Bacharach/David classic in ‘Walk On By’ – which is then remade into a bloodless apology. ‘Everytime We Say Goodbye’ too is given perhaps its most non-descript treatment ever.

‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face’ is one of two songs not done as a bossa number, but instead as a very slow ballad. And again, it’s the slowness that kills it. You’ll be willing for the pace to pick up just a little bit. The other song not in the bossa style is ‘Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry’, and rather pleasingly it feels perfectly paced, with Anthony Wilsons silky and seductive guitar work raising it to an easy album highlight.

Intended as a ‘love letter for my husband’, it sounds more like a (over) production job than a personal and intimate dedication. Aiming for dreamy and sensuous gently swaying cocktail music, it instead – bossa or not – gives us a distinctly unsexy expensively made collection of songs that despite their high calibre, completely fail to engage. Not jazz, not bossa, it is a clutch of outstanding compositions from the background of both reduced to slow balladry, something that you would expect from someone of a much lesser pedigree than Diana Krall.

Obviously going for the romantic and caressing, Diana Kralls ‘Quiet Nights’ is more likely to instill drowsiness and instantly induce narcolepsy. So there you go, this is ‘Diana Krall Does Bossa Coma’.


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