Jazz diva displays usual expressiveness, new artistic range
By Peter Hum, The Ottawa Citizen October 3, 2010
Variety is more than the spice of life. It also seems to be the defining quality of a Diana Krall concert circa 2010, given the Canadian jazz star’s performance at the National Arts Centre Gala on Saturday night.
More so than in previous Ottawa performances, Krall stretched her wings musically. She and her band sampled broadly from the musical styles that are within her well-defined comfort zone, and even went to some new places, showing that the top-selling artist in jazz isn’t content just to spin out the tried-and-true sounds of her million-selling CDs.
Her concert featured music associated with Oscar Peterson and Tom Waits, Irving Berlin and Krall’s husband Elvis Costello, Fats Waller and Burt Bacharach. What unified it was Krall’s musical presence and the continual expressiveness of her voice and piano playing.
Between songs, Krall kept listeners rapt with anecdotes both musical (her encounter with piano giant Peterson, a 1997 NAC concert in Ottawa) and personal (a story about her twin boys and their fondness for the Spider-Man theme song, which has just figured in some of her improvising).
Krall’s set began with I Love Being Here With You, her standard set-opener and testament to her love for the swing feel and excitement at the core of the jazz tradition. It was locomotive-fast, meant to rouse a crowd and also unite listeners with its titular sentiment.
The bubbly bossa nova hit Summer Samba followed, but as Krall leaned into the song she was more bluesy than usual.
The music grew more serious with a ballad, the My Fair Lady song I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face. Krall was so deep into the music that when she delivered the song’s message of a lover’s “serene contentment,” it was easy to mind-read that she had Costello in mind.
The next selection hit like a musical jump-cut, as Krall presented the rollicking and dramatic Tom Waits song Jockey Full Of Bourbon. While Krall can be commanding with as little as a whisper, on this high-energy, Latin-groove tune, she seemed to be reveling in the pure power of her voice.
With that out of her system, Krall was deep into the jazz once more, swinging through I Was Doing Alright. Guitarist Anthony Wilson and bassist Robert Hurst were compelling soloists on the loping, medium-tempo tune. While some hipper-than-thou jazz fans look down at Krall’s music because of its accessibility, Wilson and Hurst definitely demonstrated their jazz-badass credentials.
Indeed, Wilson was under the spotlight during the next tune, Tom Jobim’s hypnotic song Corcovado, providing an introduction full of rich harmonies before he accompanied Krall’s dreamy singing with supreme taste.
Abandoned Masquerade, with lyrics by Costello and music by Krall, saw Krall entering more contemporary emotional territory and grinding blue notes during her piano solo.
Before Cheek to Cheek, her set-closer, Krall showed another facet of her piano playing with a stride-piano version of Honeysuckle Rose. The brisk Irving Berlin tune that followed was as playful as anything in the night.
Brought back for an encore, Krall had a final surprise. She tied together two Burt Bacharach tunes — What the World Needs Now and Walk on By — conveying sweet soulfulness with the first song and more contemporary sass on the second. What was a soul ballad for Dionne Warwick took on a trace of hip-hop, thanks to drummer Karriem Riggins.
NAC Gala: An Intimate Evening with Diana Krall
NACO Special Concerts
Singer, pianist, and songwriter extraordinaire, British Columbia’s own Diana Krall is our special guest at this season’s NAC Gala. This superb Grammy Award-winning jazz musician has a unique style and a seductive, sultry voice that is sure to leave you wanting more. You might even hear something from her latest album, Quiet Nights. Diana Krall will captivate you in a one-hour performance on this glittering occasion.
To begin your enchanted evening, you'll enjoy a spectacular welcome by our own treasured Maestro Pinchas Zukerman as he leads the NAC Orchestra in the dazzling first half of the concert. An intimate, romantic and glamourous evening awaits you.
"She draws people into an intimate space… simply to enjoy that feeling of being ‘up close and personal’… that makes us sit back with a sigh and simply enjoy that Krall really is very good."
The Telegraph (London)
"In her dark whispery alto… the effect is to turn songs into mysterious stream-of-consciousness ruminations… in a private language that is all about rhythm."
New York Times