Diana Krall’s 12th album, Quiet Nights, is a comfort-food sequel to 2001’s orchestrally drenched The Look of Love. But this reunion with arranger Claus Ogerman more fully indulges in the kind of bossa novas that he cooked up for Sinatra & Jobim in the ’60s. If Ogerman’s ”Girl From Ipanema” self-homage is predictable, the other choices are inspired, including an unrecognizably melancholy ”I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face.” Ogerman might be the only arranger alive who can make an overstuffed orchestra sound so distant and wistful, and Krall, suddenly channeling Julie London, is the taciturn symphony’s whispery match.
Bossa nova is not unfamiliar to Diana Krall, but 2009's Quiet Nights is her first record devoted to the gently swaying rhythm. Teaming up again with arranger Claus Ogerman, who last worked with Krall on 2001's The Look of Love and who also frequently collaborated with bossa nova godfather Antonio Carlos Jobim, Krall winds up with a mellow, lazy album that recalls the relaxed late-night sophistication of Jobim's duet album with Frank Sinatra, which Ogerman also happened to arrange and conduct. It's not just the sound, it's the songs: how '60s standards like Bacharach/David's "Walk on By" sit next to three Jobim tunes, a song by Marcos Valle ("So Nice"), and a few American Songbook standards placed at the beginning, the better to ease listeners into purer bossa nova at the end.
Singer/pianist Krall was once the jazziest of the jazz-influenced young singers who rekindled the hopes of the major labels' accountants during the 90s. She was an accomplished swing pianist (former Billie Holiday accompanist Jimmy Rowles was a mentor), and an intelligent heiress to Shirley Horn and Carmen McRae. Then the same thing happened to her as had happened 40 years before to one of her biggest inspirations, Nat King Cole.
I suppose it was inevitable that Diana Krall would make a lushly orchestrated bossa nova recording. Her previously lushly orchestrated collection, The Look of Love, is her top seller and contained a couple of sensuous Latin numbers. Krall has a unique voice with a number of luscious contours that are shown off best in slow, quiet settings. And so Quiet Nights fits the bill: a dozen tracks (seven bossa treatments and five ballads), her own delicate tinkle of piano, a high-class but whispering rhythm section (John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton), and gauzy orchestration by Claus Ogerman.