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Jazz pianist Diana Krall: Not just Mrs. Elvis Costello

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Diana Krall may be Mrs. Elvis Costello now, but the Grammy winner is still her own woman when it comes to her career as a jazz musician, as well as a budding record producer for no less than Barbra Streisand.

Canadian singer Diana Krall poses for a portrait in New York February 27, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

Yet Krall was never too far away from her daily life as wife and mother when she talked recently about her new album, “Quiet Nights” that hits stores on Tuesday, her studio work with Streisand and performing at the White House.

“This might be my nanny,” she apologized, as her cellphone beeped away while talking to Reuters.

“The boys had lunch and are now napping. Everything’s good. Elvis is looking after (them) in Vancouver,” she sighed, thinking about her two-year-old twins, Dexter and Frank.

Her marriage to Costello in 2003 united two musical forces, and the British rocker’s influence seemed evident on Krall’s 2004 album “The Girl in the Other Room.”

Krall, 44, is best known for her interpretations of jazz standards, but “Girl in the Other Room” included some songs she wrote and composed with Costello. Purists were not completely happy because she was seen as straying from what they expected by performing material that was more contemporary singer/songwriter than jazz.

She recalled that some fans walked out of a show that year at New York’s Radio City. “Some people left...(but) I think it’s good to do different things because it brings you back and, like this album I’ve done, I wouldn’t be able to do it like I did if I didn’t go through this and this and this.”

The Canadian singer-pianist said she might want to collaborate on a kids CD with the man she calls Elvis -- at least publicly -- rather than by his given name, Declan.

“I’m hoping to do a children’s record. If I collaborated with Elvis it would be really fun, we could just go nutty -- crazy rock and he’d be writing about bugs or something.”

But Krall said she has no plans to combine her talents with her husband’s music on his albums. Both work independently on records, but play each other demo tapes to get their reaction.

After she records, Costello might offer ideas on sequencing of songs, effects and other post-production elements, but she notes that his genius is writing lyrics where her strength is making melodies. “I can’t write lyrics for toffee!” she joked.

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“That’s why Elvis and I are such a match. We both have the same intensity and passion for things and want to be artists and do what we feel is right,” she said.


Ahead of the release of “Quiet Nights,” Krall has been producing an album of standards for singing legend Streisand and playing piano on some of the record’s tracks.

“She’s directed and she’s a very, very strong woman,” she said of Streisand. “You want to give her something that is what she wants but also a little different. But that’s probably why she called me.”

Krall, who was raised in Nanaimo, British Columbia and studied music at Boston’s famed Berklee College, said she was a little awe-struck at the White House last month where she played for President Obama at a Stevie Wonder tribute.

She recalled the concert as an emotional experience since the last time she had been at the White House was with her mother at a state banquet for former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Her mother has since died.

“Elvis was looking after Dexter and Frank in Vancouver, but he would have loved to have gone.” she said. “And the president said to me: ‘I didn’t know Elvis Costello was your husband, tell him I said ‘hi’”.

“Quiet Nights,” on the Verve label, sees Krall back in jazz standard mode, but with a twist. She’s singing and playing Brazilian-tinged songs by Jobim, Gilberto and others.

She never intended the record to be a Brazilian album, but that’s how it came out after she recorded about 50 songs, overall, before choosing the music that made it onto the CD.

“When you finish it’s like a mirror is held up to you and you say ‘Oh that’s where I am.’”

Which led to the obvious question, where is she now?

“Very happy, mother of two beautiful boys and wife, and feeling quite comfortable in my own skin.

“I wasn’t just an artist I wanted more, I really wanted to be a mother. And now I’m a Mum and the most important thing in my whole life is my children and my husband and my career which I love.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte