Diana Krall - Christmas Songs

Verve ****
Most of this album is freshly recorded, but there are two of the three tracks from the Christmas "single" CD Krall did back in 1998 (‘Jingle Bells’, also on that disc, has been re-made here with big-band accompaniment from the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra).
Diana Krall - Christmas Songs
The Orchestra appears here on most tracks: the rest are small group interpretations. Of course the whole area of Christmas albums is a well-known fudge-filled minefield of confection, sentiment and corn, so anyone prepared to enter it cannot but be aware of the pitfalls. Some artists embrace the kitsch with a passion, others try with all their might to avoid it, while still others attempt a more independent course.

On this album Krall does not hesitate to display her enthusiasm for the songs and sentiments being expressed, but she covers a lot of emotional ground and manages in the main to steer well clear of the cheesier aspects of Yuletide songfests (the opener ‘Jingle Bells’ is the most obdurate in resisting her artistic will: but then again it resists virtually every attempt to wrest it from seasonal tweeness). The rest of the set rings true, from ‘Let It Snow’ to the rollicking ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, partly because Krall never forces things and partly because each instrumental setting is sympathetic to the song’s message as interpreted by the singer.

That message is often surprisingly (and refreshingly) adult, recognising the fact that we all like to let our hair down around the winter solstice, but not all of us want to revert entirely to childhood – just its trappings. For an example of that rare balance being struck here, go no further than ‘White Christmas,’ which is a little miracle all of its own.