The American Songbook is very fertile musical ground for song stylists. Stylists are notable for their interpretive ability with notable music, even repertoire as familiar as such endurable classics as “My Funny Valentine” or “The Look of Love.” They might not be great vocalists, but that’s not what they’re about. Song stylists at their best are the memorable marriage of personality and imagination.
Two such stylists are Chet Baker and Diana Krall. In fact, I can’t listen to Krall without hearing remnants of Baker, whether it be his seductive horn or plaintive voice. I don’t know if Krall has ever claimed Baker as an influence, but very, very few of us singers “come from nowhere,” so to speak. We’re highly impressionable, and every one of us has our favorites. Most of us are channeling at least the inspiration of a favorite or two every time we get before an audience.
Here’s an appropriately sultry rendition of “The Look of Love” from Diana Krall (in performance at the White House). After listening to it, take a listen to the accompanying clip of the enigmatic Chet Baker sing and blow to “My Funny Valentine.” Two very different songs from performers of completely different eras. While one doesn’t mimic the other, to my ears, these two greats almost sound like could have grown up together.