How does one correlate the emergence of an aspiring jazz singer/pianist with the anniversary of Joe Carter’s walk-off home run, October 23, 1993, that gave the Toronto Blue Jays their second World Series trophy? Meyer’s Deli, a once popular delicatessen at 69 Yorkville Avenue.
Meyer’s, in its day, had a late-night jazz policy, one embraced by the local jazz establishment and booked by the late Dave Caplan, known to many as the “jazz tailor.” Caplan did business from the trunk of his car. He’d show samples, then take your measurements, return to his apartment and sew to a ‘not so perfect’ fit.
Caplan had booked me and my piano jazz trio for the 9:30 set up against the Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies. The trio arrives to find every seat filled and crowd focused on the big screen – that early version of flat screen – the projection kind. 9:30 nears when a floor manager walks over and informs me, “no need to play until the game is over.” Nothing sweeter resonated to the ears of three baseball fanatics.
Corn beef is flowing, beers hoisted, a young crowd of university/college students are in for the big bang, and its all settled in one earth-shattering swing. Carter smacks a Mitch ‘Wild Thing’ Williams pitch over the seats then takes a ‘fist-pumping’ victory lap around the bases. The house explodes in celebration. Pandemonium breaks out. In one mad rush to the streets and victory lap, Meyer’s empties and left behind uneaten portions of fries and beef and coleslaw. Most revellers fail to pay, leaving staff looking as if the soles of their shoes had been nailed to the floor. Moments later, the floor manager returns and releases us from a night’s work, brings the band check and thanks us for dropping by.
Back in 1988, Caplan invited me to drop in for the 1:00 a.m. set to catch a newly certified ‘star -in-waiting’ and former student of local jazz legend, Don Thompson – Diana Krall. As much as I loathed catching a group after midnight, I made the date. I’m certainly glad I did. This was my first view of a promising newcomer, Diana Krall. Krall was all inside her jazz self. No singing, just her, a Fender Rhodes piano – bass and drums. Krall played a mix of originals and jazz standards. It was heady stuff and a chance for her to play Toronto. The late-night crowd of jazz chasers bought in – this coming on the doorsteps of the release of her debut recording, Stepping Out, recorded with jazz greats John Clayton bass and Jeff Hamilton drums.
Then came the showcase at the Underground Railroad, a soul food restaurant that underwent several incarnations over the years. That occasion sealed the deal and Krall’s future. The room was jammed with anyone and everyone that could advance her career.
Five years later, the spring of 1998 I would interview Krall and get a chance to hear in her own words about the slow, carefully planned arc to her career. It has been a magnificent journey. Eight albums debuting top of the Billboard Jazz Albums chart and over 15 million albums sold worldwide and currently riding high with 92-year-old Tony Bennett, Love Is Here to Stay. There are also three Grammy awards and eight Juno Awards in the mix.
I’ve photographed Krall on several occasions – the first being in 1998 at Molson Place, so memorable Krall asked for a 11X14 to be framed for her home. The occasion, Oscar Peterson’s 80th birthday celebration at HMV, August 2005. Also, on hand, Bell Media’s Randy Lennox –to present Oscar with a citation commemorating his newly minted image on the Canadian 50-cent postal stamp, and soon-to-be husband, Elvis Costello. Here’s that conversation from twenty years back and photos.