Tag Archives: Diana Krall

My Week: Red Haute Style

Well, last week kicked off in style with an interview with the wonderful jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall who has a new CD, entitled Glad Rag Doll, launching in October – and whom I last interviewed 11 years ago. It may mark a new direction for her in terms of what she has recorded before (though it draws on music she has loved for most of her life), and who she has worked with, but it’s the CD’s cover which has so far been the subject of web chatter – because the 47-year-old mother of twins is shown posing in a basque, designed in collaboration with the Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood.

Basically, as Diana says, she was “playing dress-up” and “getting into character” – the character being a 1920s showgirl.  You’ll have to wait until my article is published in The Herald to hear the rest of Ms Krall’s thoughts on the cover and the reaction it’s been provoking, but I was intrigued by the fact that since this is an (utterly beguiling) album of contemporary takes on mainly 1920s songs, she extended that aesthetic to her hair on the cover shot. Instead of recreating the predominant hair style of the 1920s – the bob – she went for a tousled demi-updo.

“I watched Bonnie and Clyde,” she explained, “and Faye Dunaway’s hair is of the period the film was made in – the 1960s – rather than the 1930s, so I thought ‘why not do the same thing here?’.”

A similar sort of anachronism is in evidence in the new movie version of Anna Karenina, which I saw last week with a couple of girlfriends. I had read nothing about it in advance, so it was only when I clocked the camellia/diamond necklace that Keira Knightley wears early on that I realised that Chanel Fine Jewellery was one of the stars of the piece.  As ogle-worthy as that necklace was, it just didn’t go with the period – something that the costume designer Jacqueline Durran has said she didn’t care about when she was working on the sartorial style of the film. Personally, I don’t think it went with the style of the dress, either..

I wonder what another Diana would have made of all the above: the legendary magazine editor and style guru Diana Vreeland, who is enjoying a post-humous comeback thanks to the new documentary about her, The Eye Has to Travel, which is currently playing in cinemas and will be released on DVD next month. I saw the film at the Glasgow Film Festival earlier this year. It’s a fascinating portrait of a fascinating woman who lived and breathed style. My only objection to it is how fast it moves – it jumps from image to image, clip to clip at a breathless pace – though, given how Vreeland herself spoke  (she sounded like  Audrey Hepburn on speed), I guess that’s quite apt.

Vreeland, a formidable working socialite with still -quoted style mantras (“Never fear being vulgar, just boring”) and observations (“Pink is the navy blue of India”), inspired the character of Maggie Prescott, the magazine editor played by Kay Thompson, in the glorious Audrey Hepburn musical Funny Face. Prescott may have ordered her troops to “Think pink!” but red was Vreeland’s personal colour of preference. So I’m sure she would adore the latest nail varnishes to land on my desk…

The Estee Lauder Pure Color Nail Lacquers Red Hautes Collection (£14.50 each; www.esteelauder.co.uk from October) is a set of five shades of that most enduringly popular of nail colours, ranging from what is actually a fuschia through to a deep, dark crimson. I’m smitten with Beautiful Liar, a cherry shade which anticipates the reds we usually see at Christmas time.

Oh, and speaking of Christmas, I was treated – on Thursday – to a sneak preview of Clarins’ festive collection over lunch with their chic PR, Jenn who immediately spotted that I was wearing the Spiced Orange version of the new Clarins Rouge Prodige Lipsticks (£17.50; www.clarins.co.uk) and the limited edition Clarins Instant Definition Mascara in Intense Plum (£20); gorgeous products, both – and available in the current autumn make-up collection.

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Musicians’ Movie Talk

Over the last however-many years of interviewing and socialising with jazz musicians of all ages and backgrounds, I’ve come to notice a certain leit-motif when it comes to their interests: many of them, like me, are avid old-movie buffs.

The thought had occurred before but it was rammed home last week when I met the young jazz singer-songwriter Melody Gardot. The way this girl speaks is as eloquent as her lyric-writing, and she has a way with an analogy that Raymond Chandler would have envied. Sitting, like teenagers, on her bed in her west London hotel, we talked about fashion, nail polish – the important stuff – before going on to the problems she has overcome since she was knocked off her bike by a hit-and-run Jeep a few years ago.

I had to ask if the long, wavy, peekaboo blonde hair was inspired by one of my favourite stars, Veronica  Lake (it wasn’t), and there ensued a chat about old movies. Gardot, it turns out, is a big Groucho Marx devotee, and she certainly knows her stuff – she even launched into an impersonation of him singing in A Night at the Opera. “I love you very mucho…”  Although she has trouble remembering things, certain movie moments haven’t slipped through the sieve that is her memory- and these are mostly from Fellini and Hitchcock films.

Being an aficionado of old movies is a trait that Gardot has in common with at least two of her label-mates: the first time I interviewed the singer-pianist Diana Krall, she told me that she loved the old MGM musicals (she had just been watching Vincente Minnelli’s The Band Wagon in her hotel), and had been brought up watching classic films on TV.

There were certainly clues to her love of film in the songs that she recorded on her early albums: Dancing in the Dark (from the afore-mentioned The Band Wagon), I’ll String Along With You (My Dream Is Yours)  and  Let’s Face the Music And Dance (Follow the Fleet). Of course, old movies offer rich pickings for anyone on the look-out for great songs.

Singer Madeleine Peyroux was similarly raised on a diet of great Hollywood movies. In her case, Frank Capra had made a big impression with Mr Smith Goes to Washington – and James Stewart and Gary Cooper were her two favourite stars.

Of the Scottish jazz musicians with whom I’ve had great movie conversations, piano ace Brian Kellock and velvet-voiced singer Todd Gordon stand out; while the great American double-act of Marty Grosz (guitar) and Ken Peplowski (clarinet/tenor sax) is just as entertaining in a dinner table discussion of 1940s comedy character actors as it is onstage playing tunes from that era.

Clearly, for some of us, a love of jazz goes hand-in-hand with a love of old films. In many cases, it’s the result – initially anyway – of a parent’s influence. And let’s face it, with jazz especially, if you don’t start off being introduced to something that has perhaps been carefully chosen for you, it could well put you off for life..

Maybe the joint interest in jazz and old movies arises out of a predisposition to past pop culture – and possibly a teenage tendency towards individualism.  Who knows? All I can say is that the best conversations about old movies that I’ve had have been with jazzers. And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that my favourite jazz musicians are the ones who love the same comedy masters as me: Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen, the Marx Brothers. After all, in both jazz and comedy, timing is everything…

* Read my full interview with Melody Gardot in The Herald Magazine next Saturday, June 13.

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