BORN IN NANAIMO, BRITISH COLUMBIA (NOT FAR from Vancouver), Diana Krall grew up in the western part of Canada and began studying the piano when she was four years old. By the time she was 15, she was playing jazz in a local restaurant/bar. One person who encouraged her interest in music was her father, a stride pianist with a vast knowledge of such Twenties and Thirties keyboard masters as Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, and Earl Hines. "I think Dad had every recording Fats Waller ever made," she says, "and I tried to learn as many as I could."
Krall was still a teenager when she was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. After two years in Boston, she moved to Los Angeles, where she met her first jazz heavyweights, including John Clayton, pianist/singer Jimmy Rowles, and Ray Brown, the legendary bassist who served as her musical mentor (and played on Only Trust Your Heart). Krall had lived in Los Angeles for three years when she moved to Toronto, and it was a Canadian label that gave her a chance to record for the first time. In 1993, the Montreal-based Justin Time Records released her debut album, Stepping Out. In 1994, she signed with GRP and recorded Only Trust Your Heart, which featured Brown on bass and Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone and marked the beginning of her association with Tommy LiPuma (who has worked with everyone from Barbra Streisand to George Benson).
Since then, LiPuma has produced all of Krall's subsequent albums for GRP, Impulse!, and Verve, including All for You: A Dedication to the Nat "King" Cole Trio (1995), Love Scenes (1997), When I Look In Your Eyes (1998), The Look of Love (2001), and Live in Paris (2003). "That was the first time I had produced that many albums in a row for any artist," he says. "Diana and I have such a good chemistry between us -- it makes it easy. When one of us makes a suggestion, the other listens in earnest. We have tremendous respect for one another."
Krall grew increasingly popular throughout the Nineties. Only Trust Your Heart, All for You, and Love Scenes all sold well, but the album that put her over the top commercially was When I Look in Your Eyes. In addition to spending 52 weeks in the #1 position on Billboard's jazz chart, When I Look in Your Eyes won GRAMMY®'s in two categories, Best Jazz Vocal Performance and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, and received a GRAMMY® nomination in the Album of the Year category-putting Krall in competition with Santana, the Backstreet Boys, the Dixie Chicks, and TLC.
Needless to say, it isn't every day that an acoustic-oriented jazz improviser finds herself competing with major rock, country, urban, and teen-pop stars for a GRAMMY® award. Nor is it every day that a jazz improviser becomes a major attraction at the Lilith Fair festival, founded by singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan to spotlight female pop-rock and pop artists. But in 1998, Krall had no problem winning over a young, predominantly female audience more likely to be into Sheryl Crow or Alanis Morissette than Abbey Lincoln or Chris Connor.
When I Look in Your Eyes eventually went platinum in the United States (where it sold over one million units), double platinum in Canada, platinum in Portugal, and gold in France. It was a hard act to follow, but Krall's next album, The Look of Love, would also be an impressive seller. Released in September 2001, it entered the Billboard 200 at #9 and sold 95,000 copies in the U.S. alone in its first week.
"The thing about Diana is her musicianship," Al Schmitt said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "More than most singers, she knows what's right for her, and she knows how to make it happen musically."