The first five minutes of this CD are enough to send running with his tail between his legs anyone who’s ever knocked Krall for being the over-hyped ice queen of neo-trad vocal jazz and losing 20 pounds at the behest of her imperialist record label so she’d be camera-ready for the Playboy photographers to shoot her album covers. And I am that dog. Aarf! You can’t give Krall credit for extending the tradition in the manner of a Cassandra Wilson or a Patricia Barber with songwriting, unusual arrangements, or weird covers, but when it comes to meat-and-potatoes swing, is anyone doing it better?
Her previous effort, the bossa-inspired megahit The Look of Love (Verve), was frou-frou’d in gossamer production and Claus Ogerman’s arrangements. Live in Paris finds her back behind the wheel of her sleek quartet, making hairpin rhythmic turns in every measure of up-tempo swingers like Peggy Lee & William Schluger’s " I Love Being Here with You " and Walter Hirsch & Fred Rose’s " ’Deed I Do. " Every word, every syllable serves that forward momentum, as do the ways she alters the melody, singing a few words on a single note or jumping up or down in the chords. She’s not afraid to slow " I’ve Got You Under My Skin " way down and steal it back (okay, borrow) from Frank Sinatra, just as surely using that Francis-like breath control to extend one chorus into the next. Her piano playing is so free and independent that even adepts might forget that the woman is accompanying herself. And the occasional string sections are deployed with restraint.
No, if I never hear " The Look of Love " again, it won’t be too soon, and you can keep the encore of Billy Joel’s " Just the Way You Are, " but Joni Mitchell’s " A Case of You " shows Krall getting deeper yet. The lesson: if you’re going to work the tradition, work it.