In the past few months, Canadian jazz superstar Diana Krall has handled high-profile gigs like performing “Fly Me To The Moon” at astronaut Neil Armstrong’s funeral and joining Paul McCartney on stage at the 12-12-12 Concert For Sandy Relief (right before he rocked out with the remaining members of Nirvana) with effortless grace and aplomb. But opening the Canadian leg of her tour in support of her latest album, Glad Rag Doll, in her hometown of Nanaimo, BC, is another thing entirely.
“I think I’m way more nervous about opening there than at Carnegie Hall,” Krall tells Huff Post Canada of her February 3 show at the Port Theatre. “But it’s nice because I’ll be home, you know, and I don’t remember the last time I played at home. And my dad will be there and that’s the most important thing for me.”
This isn’t the first case of Glad Rag Doll-related jitters that that singer has faced when it comes to her father. The album, which sees Krall sinking her teeth into some surprisingly modern – and even rocking – takes on Vaudeville classics, was inspired by her childhood love of the genre, a fondness that was born and raised at rollicking family sing-alongs at her grandparents’ place and in the stacks of her father’s prized collection of 78rpm records. Given their history with the tunes in question, the singer was a little nervous to play her versions for the man who introduced her to them in the first place.
“He knows all of that music, especially [‘There Ain’t] No Sweet Man [That’s Worth The Salt Of My Tears”], but he knows the Bing Crosby version. So it’s a little edgier than the Bing Crosby version, but he just looked at me and he goes ‘Gosh, Diana. You can just do anything you want.’ And I was like ‘Thanks, Dad!’ He loved it.”
Krall has received similar raves from other members of her clan, including her New York Vaudeville veteran aunt and her record-collecting uncle Randy, who will also be attending the Nanaimo show. “I don’t get a chance to play for my relatives very much,” she says. “So that will be cool.”
Although her hometown gig is the site of the big reunion, Krall’s family has, in a way, been with her throughout the European leg of the Glad Rag Doll tour and will continue to travel with her as she crosses Canada and then heads down to the United States. Her dad’s gramophone is a part of her set, and she’s included some footage from those raucous old family parties in the massive multimedia show that accompanies her performances.
“It’s the most ambitious stage show I’ve ever done,” she admits. “As ambitious as the recording, actually.”
But the expansive set, complete with the paternal gramophone and two pianos, the big band, and the exhausting undertaking of editing enough film footage to fill the big movie screen behind it all – much of which was done in the wee hours of the night while the mother of young twins was recovering from knee surgery – have all been worth it. The show has gone over like gangbusters in Europe and promises to do the same on this continent. It’s even allowed her to live out another lifelong dream.
“I always wanted to be a silent movie piano player,” Krall confesses. “So I guess I get the chance to do that!”
The greater Glad Rag Doll experience has also allowed the jazz icon to give her fans a taste of the musical mirth that made her want to revisit and rework the old songs to begin with. In a way, her live show has become a sprawling recreation of the familial parties that made such an impression on her back in the day.
“Basically, that’s how it should feel, and I tell people that. I say I’m just doing for you what I do in my parents’ living room. Except, you know,” she laughs, “you have to buy tickets.”