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Diana Krall: Wallflower

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Over the years, the career-arc similarities of Diana Krall and Nat King Cole have often been cited: how Krall, like Cole, started out as purely a jazz pianist; how singing was, at first, strictly a sideline; and how vocal prowess proved the catalyst for major stardom. By the mid-’50s, Cole had shifted almost entirely from jazz artist to pop stylist, albeit one with keen jazz instincts. If Wallflower is any indication, Krall has officially crossed that same line.

Not, truth be told, that it really matters. For as with Cole, this is jazz-influenced pop singing of the highest caliber. (And it is primarily singing; she plays piano on just three tracks.) The production values, courtesy of an impressively subdued David Foster, are sterling. The strings, present across most of the dozen tracks, are silken, never syrupy. Krall’s distinctively scorched sound remains as bewitching as ever. The material, of course, helps fuel the crossover argument, with Krall covering pop hits from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. But her selections are judicious. The songs, from such fine craftsmen as Elton John, Bob Dylan, Don Henley, John Phillips, Jim Croce and Leon Russell, are consistently good and often great.

Befitting so polished a project, there are a few A-list guests. Though his and Krall’s voices twine only briefly on Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally),” Michael Bublé proves a winning partner. Equally satisfying is her duet with Bryan Adams on Randy Newman’s downy “Feels Like Home.” But to savor Wallflower‘s finest moments it’s necessary to buy the deluxe edition. There you’ll find a gorgeously spare rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s “In My Life” and, best of all, a rollicking “Yeh Yeh” with Georgie Fame (who, remarkably, sounds as sharp and fresh as he did when he scored the original hit in 1965). It is not only the disc’s sole slice of fun and frolic but also the only track that recalls the more untamed Krall of her early work.

Listen to or download this album at iTunes.

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