Diana Krall, Christmas Songs
Urbane and elegant versions of familiar carols and ballads
Krall knows her audience well, as this holiday album (Jesus is nowhere to be found) neither insults nor taxes your intelligence on its entertaining route through urbane and elegant versions of familiar carols and ballads. The arrangements are gently spiked with adventure and sophistication, the backing personnel with superb jazz pedigrees from the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra are lush and restrained in most of the right places, and Krall's cool, subtly suggestive vocals are dominant. She's more at home and adept on the ballads, meshing beautifully with both the stark piano drummer Jeff Hamilton's superior brushwork on the early phrases to "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," then gliding seamlessly into midtempo with the creamy strings. She delightfully marinates the words, "everybody knows" before the turkey and mistletoe on Mel Torme's classic "The Christmas Song," and puts a welcome dab of blues into Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" with the aide of solid piano accompaniment that is either Alan Broadbent or Krall herself. On the uptempo numbers, some mediocre scat mars an otherwise pleasing and creative rendition of "Jingle Bells," and the cutesy vocal approach to "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," is simply too out of character for Krall to execute well, but Sammy Kahn's "Let It Snow" is a winner both for Krall's marvelous phrasing (check the way she punctuates "all…the…way…home I'll be warm" and the series of brief jazz solos that follow. Christmas Songs glides home with a pair of inspired tunes that move beyond December, Frank Loesser's melancholy "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" (an ideal number for Krall) and the humble closer, "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep."