Singer-pianist Diana Krall wants to make one thing clear about Wallflower, her new CD: It's a pop album, not a jazz album.
For her 12th album, Krall enlisted fellow British Columbian David Foster, a 16-time Grammy winner. Foster did the arrangements and played most of the piano parts, freeing Krall to focus on her vocals.
Three Rock and Roll Hall of Famers provide background vocals on several tracks: Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles (on his own I Can't Tell You Why). Krall sings duets with two fellow Canadians: Michael Buble on Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again (Naturally)"and Bryan Adams on Randy Newman's Feels Like Home.
The repertoire mostly includes pop ballads from the 1960s and '70s, including the Mamas and the Papas' California Dreamin'; the Eagles' Desperado; and Elton John's Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.
The title track is an obscure Bob Dylan song that Krall discovered on one of his Bootleg Series records. The newest song is a previously unreleased ballad by Paul McCartney, If I Take You Home Tonight.
Krall kicks off a 27-city U.S. tour Feb. 25 and starts her Canadian tour in Edmonton on May 11. A conversation with Diana Krall:
Why did you want to do a pop album?
I had a chance to work with David Foster whom I've known for a long time. I felt that this was the right time and the right person to do this kind of record with. David has a jazz background, but he's also a great pop producer and incredible accompanist which I discovered more and more as I was working with him. ... I really made it clear that I didn't want to do a jazz record. ... I wanted to do a pop record and keep the integrity of the original melody and chord changes.
Do you feel a personal connection with these songs from the 1960s and '70s?
I could do things that I don't find some connection to. It's not like I'm pulling songs from another era that mean nothing to me. I sang pop music most of my life. I was a somewhat normal young person listening to pop music — Crowded House, Linda Ronstadt, Bryan Adams — and playing it. Elton John was always a hero of mine.
What was it like working with Paul McCartney on his standards album, Kisses on the Bottom?
That whole time working with Paul was probably one of the greatest experiences in my life. He's just an amazing, good person. ... I was the band leader, piano player and accompanist, and I loved being in that role. Every day it was a joy to come into the studio and see Paul and [producer] Tommy LiPuma work together.
Paul had written some romantic ballads of his own to include on the record, but fortunately for me one song, If I Take You Home Tonight did not make it on the record. I asked, "Paul, do you think it would be okay if I did the song on my record?" and he said sure. How exciting is it to do a new Paul McCartney song? It's one of my favourite tracks.
Are you worried about how your fans might react to Wallflower – that some might think you're abandoning jazz for pop?
I don't think I'm abandoning anything. ... I've always seen myself as a jazz pianist first. The major influence in my life is Nat King Cole, although I don't put myself in the same category as him. I know that some will like this album and some will not. You cannot control that. ... You just want to make a beautiful record that you love, coming from an honest place, and hope that everybody else will love it.