Three great women of jazz swap tales
CNN WorldBeat's Brooke Alexander profiles three ladies of jazz
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Friday, August 06, 1999 5:36:39 PM EST
(CNN) -- New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall was packed when Canadian jazz singer-pianist Diana Krall recently made her debut there. Krall and another talented vocalist, Dianne Reeves, have together dominated the Billboard jazz charge in recent months, with their albums making up four of the Top 20.
And then there's Shirley Horn, a protégé of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, with a career spanning half a century and a lot of bands now fighting for her services. These three ladies of jazz have three styles, and three different stories.
Krall, for example, has enjoyed a string of awards and two Grammy nominations. Her style has won admiration even outside the jazz circle -- but rankles some hard-line fans of the form.
"Some so-called 'jazz purists' are critical of me using strings instead of just a trio, and I say to that, 'HA! Who cares?'" Krall says, laughing uproariously.
"It's so funny, I wouldn't even want to call myself a purist. I have respect for the people and the tradition that came before me, and I love to play music." But, she goes on, "I don't want to make records just because they work -- 'Oh great, I'll just use the trio, it's safe!'"
Jazz-plus Leonard Cohen
Reeves also runs afoul of purists on occasion, thanks to her enthusiasm for music by artists like Leonard Cohen and Peter Gabriel. Yet she, too, has received a Grammy nomination for her jazz vocal performances, and her latest release, "Bridges," is one of those four on the Billboard jazz chart now. A contemporary of Krall, she says Krall is "wonderful."
"Throughout the years, we pass each other on the road, and we always have to swap our life stories -- we always talk about love," she says.
Much more the traditionalist, Shirley Horn was getting her jazz feet wet when Reeves was only four years old, and Krall not yet born. Horn was coaxed from Washington to New York by an unexpected phone call from a man she'd never even met -- Miles Davis, of whom she says, "I don't even know how he got my phone number."
Since then, she's developed her own distinctive style. "I don't believe in vocal gymnastics, you know," she says. "This person's taken the time to write this melody, try to do justice to that. Especially the lyrics: Do justice to that."