Talking Jazz

In all the fuss about the new wave of singers with whom the word "jazz" is often inaccurately associated - the term used so wantonly that all it signifies is something deemed to be vaguely "cool" - it seems to have been forgotten that the person who paved the way was Diana Krall. It was she who convinced the recording industry that it was possible for the word jazz to be associated with the tinkling of cash registers - quite an achievement when one considers the long, slow sell of most jazz albums.

She, however, is now taking a step away from jazz, as shown by her latest album, The Girl in the Other Room, which is high on tunes written by Krall and her new husband, Elvis Costello, short on standards, and even includes a Joni Mitchell number. It doesn't play to her strengths.

A recent performance for Radio 2 (which will be broadcast next month) confirms that she is at her best in snappy, up-tempo tunes like "Devil May Care", on which both her voice and her piano-playing are tremendous. The verve she brings to it makes her version possibly the best I've heard. She also reveals a great affinity for the blues, her hands producing shouting, ranting lines on "Love Me Like a Man" and oiling up a deliciously sleazy "Stop This World" by Mose Allison.

But she also has a weakness for a slow tempo, and I don't mean just breaking up the set with a ballad (or bad salad, as musicians put it). Try taking the notoriously slow "Love Letters" at slow pace, and then slow it down as far as you can without actually stopping, and you may get close to the soporific treacle for which Krall has a disastrous fondness. "Cry Me a River" is so overly languorous and heavy that one feels how one imagines Mrs Sting might after 11 hours of Tantric sex: "It's very nice, dear, but can't you just get on with it?"

The worry with the new, non-jazz material Krall's writing and choosing is that none of it is likely to get the pulse racing either. They're not bad tunes, but they're not exactly memorable, and some of them are pretty miserable, too. She has every right to be miserable if she wants to, but it's not much fun for the rest of us, and if her late, lamented mentor, the great double-bassist Ray Brown, were still around, I don't think he would have been that thrilled either. A little more ring-a-ding-ding, as the Rat Pack would have put it, is in order.

Something else that could often do with a bit more pizzazz is Scandinavian jazz, which has recently been in vogue. Much of it is beautiful and arresting but it's unlikely to produce much in the way of belly laughs.

An exception to this is Nils Landgren, a very fine trombonist who is under the misapprehension that he is an equally talented singer. I suspect that the latest project with his Funk Unit band is not an attempt at humour, but "Funky Abba", an album consisting entirely of Abba songs played by Landgren's acid jazz/funk band with various guest singers, cannot fail to amuse at least a little. Its release next month is timely as it was 30 years ago that "Waterloo" won the Eurovision Song Contest, and over here we've just had the 5th anniversary of Mamma Mia, the London musical about the band. Landgren also played on the original recording of "Voulez-Vous", and it was he who approached Benny Andersson asking for his blessing to make "Funky Abba". "Is that possible?" asked Benny. "I think yes," replied Nils, and as he says in the liner notes: "If we succeeded to make them funky, it's up to you friends out there to decide."

The surprise is how well so much of it works. Many of the verses are replaced by rap lines, most startlingly on "Knowing me, knowing you", which after a slowed-down brass intro goes straight into some very unSwedish-sounding dude called Magnum Coltrane Price rapping "I used to know you, you used to know me". (Note from Nils: "MCP, without you no funk in the trunk".) A brave attempt at reinventing "Dancing Queen" as a medium slow soul smoocher fails completely, as it must; nothing can match those energetic first few bars of a tune that has swept the reluctant and the weary back on to the dance floor from the moment it was first released.

Landgren's band is smooth and sinuous and I imagine an evening with this unlikely combination would be highly entertaining - especially if, as on the album, Mr Benny himself turns up as a "very special guest". And I think it's safe to say we'd be laughing with Landgren as well as at him.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living