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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The singer Diana Krall is touring this summer. And when she tours a lot, she improvises a lot. She demonstrated while playing and talking at the grand piano in a Washington hotel.

(Soundbite of Song, "Walk On By")

Ms. DIANA KRALL (Singer): (Singing) If you see me walking down the street, and I start to cry each time we meet, walk on by, walk...

(Speaking) Sorry, I'm struggling with this piano a little bit, come on (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KRALL: I'll play another piano. Oh baby, it's okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of piano)

Ms. KRALL: (Unintelligible)

(Soundbite of piano)

INSKEEP: Diana Krall became famous interpreting the hits of Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald, or in this case Diane Warwick, which by the second try falls into place.

(Soundbite of song, "Walk On By")

Ms. KRALL: (Singing) If you see me walking down the street, I start to cry each time we meet, walk on by.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Krall is touring with toddler twins she had with her husband, the musician Elvis Costello. So after making sure the kids had lunch, she came to the presidential suite at Washington's Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Though she was recovering from a cold, one that made us worry about straining her voice, she launched into a stream of thoughts about the songs that she chooses.

Ms. KRALL: And I'm always thinking about a character when I'm playing. I mean I guess Joni Mitchell's "A Case Of You" is something where I - it's taken me, you know, 10 years to find my character in that, so that I'm not just paying homage to Joni Mitchell.

INSKEEP: I feel like you're telling me almost that you're method acting. You're not planning to play the song differently. You're trying to feel it differently, which may change...

Ms. KRALL: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...the way you play it.

Ms. KRALL: Every thing I do, especially ballads, like the "The Boy from Ipanema," "Girl from Ipanema" - if I had my choice now, I'd sing "Girl from Ipanema." But I think that my idea about singing "Boy from Ipanema" was returning to Brazil, you know, this 40-something woman.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KRALL: You know, looking at these beautiful - and thinking about her youth, you know, everything thinks like, you know...

(Soundbite of piano and humming)

Ms. KRALL: I did some press in England recently and it was introduced as that '60s classic. And it is a '60s classic, but there's something else to it that's deeper than that. And I wanted to get there. I wanted to illustrate that and I can - especially if I play like solo, I think, I can...

(Soundbite of song, "The Boy from Ipanema")

Ms. KRALL: (Singing) Tall and tan and young and handsome, the boy from Ipanema goes walking, and when he passes each girl he passes goes - when he walks, it's like a samba, that swings so cool and sways so gentle and when he passes, each girl he passes goes - Ooh, but I watch him so sadly, how can I tell him I love him, yes, I would give my heart gladly, but each day, when I walk to the sea, he looks straight ahead, not at me.

So it becomes more about you, sometimes like about your feelings than "The Boy from Ipanema," "The Girl from Ipanema," and how beautiful - it's sort of a longing for...

INSKEEP: Yes.

Ms. KRALL: ...or not even a longing so much, it's just a reminiscence - that's how I think about...

INSKEEP: Loneliness comes to my mind. It's almost...

Ms. KRALL: Yeah, loneliness is pretty good word for it, you know. I'd love to find a character that I could maybe try to do rather than the usual audition for the girl singer part in the film.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KRALL: ...which I had auditioned for, for the last film I did.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KRALL: And it didn't even have a name - it was just girl singer in the bed. And I was like, man, so I do - I do think like that. I do think like that.

INSKEEP: Well, Diana Krall thanks very much for taking the time today.

Ms. KRALL: Are we done?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KRALL: Just getting going.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: We could keep talking a while. I'm just trying to look after you a little bit there...

Ms. KRALL: No, I enjoy it. I (unintelligible) - I mean, I'm - you know, I'm on the road with two-and-a-half-year-old boys who, before I came here, they wanted to go outside and play outside. They wanted to go down the slide. And I'm like, where can I find a slide? You know, and so, you know, we're moving house every day. And like I said, I was probably as fatigued as I've ever been. But in some ways it's that fatigue that gives you a strong sense of self, what you want to do - more relaxed, focused.

INSKEEP: What do your kids think of your music?

Ms. KRALL: Don't play the piano, mummy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KRALL: Oh, they like it - yesterday, Frank said, I want to listen to "Pump It Up." They know how to work the iPod.

INSKEEP: Elvis Castello's Pump...

Ms. KRALL: Elvis Castello's Pump It Up, yeah. And they loved this movie, which I think is a most beautiful film for children, still, and it holds up, is Toy Story. But the score is very - this is one part...

(Soundbite of piano)

Ms. KRALL: I've never tried it before, but I know it and it's just like...

(Soundbite of piano)

Ms. KRALL: It's very Copland and I love Aaron Copland. And they for some reason are obsessed with that passage. It's called "Buzz is Going Fast." And it's when Buzz and Jesse and they're all chasing, you know, to the rescue, and they're not like, you know, they love...

(Singing) You've got a friend in me.

(Speaking) Which I love too. You know...

(Singing) You've got a friend in me.

(Speaking) So sometimes I play that for them, and they're just - they're not really interested, they don't care. But they do like...

(Soundbite of piano)

Ms. KRALL: You know, once I start into that, they're all running around. And they've got their space shuttles and they're zzzzmmmm - 'cause I have a friend who's an astronaut and he's on a space mission right now for six months in the space station, sending me glorious pictures of the moon that I (unintelligible) show my children. And all of this goes into the music at night and the stories that I tell the audience. So these beautiful boys, you know, who are two and half are running around to a Randy Newman score, only a few bars. But they're affected by it. And it's interesting to see a two-and-a-half-year-old - two two-and-a-half-year-old boys so strongly wanting to hear that passage, particularly, over and over and over and over again. And that's the importance of music and how we live.

(Soundbite of piano)

INSKEEP: Diana Krall's latest album is called "Quiet Nights." You can hear more of the interview and more music at nprmusic.org.

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