Krall dips into the long-ago past

The singer will bring her nostalgia show to Costa Mesa this week.

April 03, 2014|By Michael Miller
(Mark Seliger )

It's a bit of technology whose name might elicit a puzzled look from millennials, and it sounded — scratchily — over the phone from Diana Krall's apartment.

Those familiar with the history of vinyl will know that 78 rpm records, or 78s, enjoyed a heyday from the late 19th century to about the mid-20th. While independent music stores and knickknack shops often sport worn bins of long-play records, it's decidedly rarer to spot a collection of the brittle discs that once preserved the voices of Bing Crosby and Al Jolson.

When jazz singer Krall mentioned that she learned many of the songs on her latest album, "Glad Rag Doll," from her father's 78 collection, the question arose: How playable are the old discs in 2014?

"Oh, yeah, you want to hear one?" Krall said. "I've got one, like, in my house. I've got thousands of them."

After Krall excused herself for a few seconds to fire up the player, the reedy strains of Duke Ellington's "Memphis Blues" crackled over the line. Krall, whose "Glad Rag Doll" tour will stop at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa on April 5, plans to end her show by playing a 78 onstage, though she declined to name the tune for fear of ruining the surprise.


That climactic touch won't be the only retro element on Krall's tour, which started in 2012 and will kick off its latest leg April 4. Film clips from the silent era will accompany about 80% of the show. Most of the tunes from the "Glad Rag Doll" album came from Krall's family's 78 stash, with tunes popularized by jazz bandleader Ted Lewis (the title track) and flapper singer Annette Hanshaw ("We Just Couldn't Say Goodbye"), among others.

Or consider some of the other song titles: "There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears," "Just Like a Butterfly That's Caught in the Rain," "You Know, I Know Ev'rything's Made for Love." They don't write them like that anymore.

For the "Glad Rag Doll" album, Krall collaborated with T Bone Burnett, one of the leaders of American music preservation through the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack and work with folk and blues artists. The Segerstrom show won't be entirely retro, since Krall's band includes electric guitar and keyboards. Still, with a vaudeville-style stage and vintage tunes and film snippets, it may feel closer to 1914 than the current year.

"Like T Bone said, 'I don't know what it is, but it's great,'" Krall said. "That's what I like. You can't put a label on it."


An imagined movie theater

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