Author: Karsten Hein
Category: Audiophile Music
“The Girl in the Other Room” was my introduction to the concept of Jazz. While I today understand that Krall’s seventh studio album is not really Jazz from a purist’s perspective, it certainly was Jazz to a novice like me. I enjoyed the fact that the songs were lyrically attractive, that the music was smooth and beautifully-crafted with lots of time and space to allow for individual notes to carry and sink in. And still, in the very beginning, the album was too disorganised for me, and I had to take long breaks and honestly only liked the more pop-like songs. My appreciation of Jazz motifs was still undeveloped at the time.
Released in March 2004, “The Girl in the Other Room” was an experiment for Diana Krall herself, because it was the first album in which she did not only perform cover versions of established Jazz greats but wrote the songs and lyrics herself with the support of her husband Elvis Castello. About the process of songwriting she says: “I wrote the music and then Elvis and I talked about what we wanted to say. I told him stories and wrote pages and pages of reminiscences, descriptions and images, and he put them into tighter lyrical form. For 'Departure Bay,' I wrote down a list of things that I love about home, things I realised were different, even exotic, now that I've been away."
In my opinion, the album’s lyrics are outstandingly beautiful. They were instantly familiar and relatable to me, a child of the seventies and eighties, in the sense that they mirrored the aesthetic beauty that was taught at American schools and widely accepted at the time. The song “Departure Bay” is about Diana returning to her hometown in British Columbia located on Vancouver Island and about the family spending the first Christmas following her mother’s death. The emptiness of the rooms and a sense of her mother’s lingering presence are so elegantly contrasted that the song has brought tears to my eyes many times. I even took it to one of my English classes and had my students interpret the lyrics with me.
If you are new to Jazz and have a heart for good lyrics, then this album is accessible enough to get you started. If you already enjoy Jazz and can appreciate tighter and less experimental musical concepts, give it a go, you just might enjoy it. To my mind, “The Girl in the Other Room” is a step up from Norah Jones’ “Come Away with Me” and a real treat in terms of audiophile listening. Give this album some time, it will grow on you. And if you should go for the CD version, I would recommend not getting the SACD. Having set my system up properly by following the twenty-something rules described in the High Fidelity section of this forum, I can assure you that the benefit of the SACD is mostly the increased profit of the label. The supposedly smoother top-end due to the improved high frequency roll-off does not make up for the hassle of having to deal with failing lasers, etc.