Did you hear the one about the singer/ pianist who grew up loving jazz, who studied all the great recordings and essential standards in her field, who became first an interesting and original stylist and then one of the largest crossover performers between the jazz and pop worlds in living memory? What about the one about the huge jazz crossover artist who married a well-respected pop songwriter and then released an album of collaborations with him, not to mention some more unusual choices of other material?
Well, Diana Krall has done all of the above. During the '90s, her albums of jazz vocal standards became more and more successful until she managed in 1999 to hit her highest point artistically and commercially at the exact same time. When I Look Into Your Eyes did mix Krall's normal piano/bass/drums approach with lush orchestral scores, but it's not as though they covered up her essential style. Krall sings old songs with a respect for their history and a sense of discovery that puts them firmly in the contemporary world.
With this year's The Girl in the Other Room, Krall is using her mammoth stature in the pop world to try something new, and while she occasionally stumbles into blind alleys, the best cuts here are new career highs. Last year she married Elvis Costello, which put her, apparently, in the mood to write some of her own songs (mostly in collaboration with her hubby). In addition she's abandoned the so-called Great American Songbook for material from Mose Allison, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell and Chris Smither via Bonnie Raitt.
From a transcendent version of Costello's classic "Almost Blue" to the sweet throb of Mitchell's "Black Crow" to the playful version of Waits' "Temptation," Krall applies what she knows to music that doesn't know this would be tried. The jury may still be out on Krall's original material; most of these songs sound like on-the-job training. If she's working this mix in with her old stuff live, we can expect a terrific concert.