Monday, August 24, 2009

Reviews of Diana Krall's concerts @ Hollywood Bowl

Diana Krall Sings, and Talks, Appealingly in Bowl Show
by Peter Larsen
Orange County Register, August 24, 2009

Three songs into her show at the Hollywood Bowl, Diana Krall paused to pose a deadpan question to the crowd: "So... have you seen my husband lately?"

It was a funny line if you got it: She's Mrs. Elvis Costello, and for much of this month Krall and Costello have been hopscotching up and down the West Coast, playing many of the same venues. Three days before Krall arrived at the Bowl on Friday, Costello played the Greek Theatre.

And while the couple might seem to come from disparate musical backgrounds -- Krall a traditional jazz piano chanteuse, Costello a musical vagabond whose deepest roots lie in rock -- seeing both within a few days highlighted their similarities.

In particular, both share a common love for the classic songbook, and reinterpretations of numbers from it into their own unique styles. For Krall on Friday, that led to 13 songs over 80 minutes that mixed jazz standards she's performed since she was Canadian teenager with the Brazilian bossa nova-influenced tunes of her most recent album, "Quiet Nights."

"I Love Being Here With You," the Peggy Lee-penned classic, opened the show in perfect fashion, with the lyrics giving Krall a chance to sing about how delighted she was to be with us. (And on this night, to ad-lib lines such as "I love the thrill of a Hollywood Bowl show," and "I love being here with you, Ray Brown, Ray Brown," a shout-out to her late mentor, the legendary jazz bassist who more or less discovered her in a small town in British Columbia.)

The song also provided an introduction to her very sharp band -- guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Jeff Hamilton -- all of whom soloed to elegant effect during the number.

A slow and bluesy take on "Do It Again," a song most associate with Judy Garland, presented the sultry side of Krall while also featuring Hurst's work on bass. "Let's Fall In Love" opened prettily with just Krall's vocals and Wilson's gentle guitar work.

All of that we might have expected -- the velvety vocals, the solid jazz riffs and runs -- but Krall was in a particularly chatty mood, and so before bringing the Los Angeles Philharmonic in to accompany her for much of the rest of show, she started talking.

"This next song, I don't want you to think of my husband, but I do," she said in the first of several droll comic interludes that had the audience laughing with her stories.

"Well, I'm not about to do 'Pump It Up' as a bossa nova," she continued, a reference to one of Costello's early classics. "Save that for an Alaskan cruise ship in my twilight years."

"I've Grown Accustomed To His Face" eventually followed, opening with a long melodic piano solo, then the full orchestra, conducted by Alan Broadbent, joined in with the strings swelling beneath the quartet's playing and Krall's heartfelt, dreamy vocals.

The rest of the night followed much the same pattern. A funny tale told (riffs ranged from traveling with twin toddlers Frank and Dexter on the tour bus to meeting President Barack Obama), then a classic song performed, with each story eventually connecting back to introduce the song.

The tour bus anecdote wrapped around (and around a few more times) to be a story about cooking, which led to performance of Nat King Cole's "Frim Fram Sauce." The Obama tale led to a song she dusted off after hearing a reference to it in the inaugural speech, that being "Pick Yourself Up."

A rapid-fire version of Irving Berlin's "Cheek To Cheek" drew one of the biggest responses of the night from the crowd of just under 12,000 fans. "P.S. I Love You" made for another highlight, with Krall accompanying herself solo at the piano, her hushed vocals filling the lyric with bittersweet longing.

And, of course, the Brazilian-themed pieces, including "So Nice" and "Quiet Nights" (also known in their original '60s versions as "Summer Samba" and "Corcovado" respectively) and an encore of "The Boy From Ipanema," felt perfect for the setting, the kind of lovely, light numbers made for performance under the stars at the Bowl.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic offered terrific backing for those and other pieces Krall performed, but also served up a solid opening set on their own.

With conductor Benjamin Wallfisch at the podium, the orchestra played four pieces that fit nicely with the Latin jazz themes Krall later delivered, including two numbers by the Mexican composer Arturo Marquez and the Duke Ellington standard "Caravan."

Like Krall, Wallfisch proved an amusing raconteur, introducing the pieces with stories that included his initial bafflement at figuring out exactly what a fandango was, having grown up in Britain only knowing the word from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." True or not, it made for one more good story.
Krall's Assured Use of Latin
The accomplished singer takes the theme of a Hollywood Bowl program in graceful, purposeful stride.
by Reed Johnson
Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2009

Friday at the Hollywood Bowl was billed as a Latin-themed night, with "an exotic lineup of romantic, jazzy and Latin American orchestral music" executed by the L.A. Philharmonic, segueing into an appearance by Diana Krall. The artist is fresh off releasing her "Brazilian-inspired" album "Quiet Nights," featuring "sultry selections of standards and sambas."

Krall, bless her, had a different idea. Rather than treat the material as some luscious, mysterious musical Other, she and her sterling bandmates made Latin-jazz syncopations and Brazilian New Wave riffs seem utterly organic to her performance, as if she'd grown up strolling the beach at Copacabana rather than the shores of British Columbia.

"I'm not about to do 'Pump It Up' as a bossa nova," she joked, alluding to one of her husband Elvis Costello's catchiest post-punk anthems. "Save that for the cruise ship."

Indeed, Friday's concert, the first of two weekend performances from Krall at the Bowl, was no Carnival-tourist musical excursion or buffet sampler of sounds. It was instead the type of selective program that marks a well-traveled connoisseur eager to share her finds.

Converting jazz into a syntax of daily emotional life is one of Krall's career achievements. It was in character for her to introduce one tune by talking about driving a tour bus like Shirley Jones of the Partridge Family, with her 2-year-old twin sons in tow.

That song turned out to be a stunning version of "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face," in which Krall perfectly captured the gentle irony of the lyrics -- about the singer's understated amazement at finding contentment after swapping independence for cozy domesticity. Conductor Alan Broadbent coaxed a low, sustained hum from the strings that enveloped Krall's husky, ruminative vocals in a blanket of warmth.

Aided by the arrangements of Claus Ogerman, John Clayton and others, Krall and her impeccable trio -- Anthony Wilson, guitar; Robert Hurst, bass; and Jeff Hamilton, drums -- were as attentive to Lerner and Loewe as they were to Gilberto and Jobim.

Without flaunting the evening's Latin leitmotif, Krall honored it by investing the Sergio Mendes song "So Nice (Summer Samba)" and her inevitable encore, "The Boy From Ipanema," with both a relaxed sway and a bluesy swing.

Most affecting of the Brazilian numbers was her rendition of Jobim's "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," as the tune frequently is known in English, or originally "Corcovado," so named after the famous Rio de Janeiro mountain. Purged of its spiritually ecstatic references to the towering Christ the Redeemer statue, the English version is simply a secular romantic ballad.

But Krall, again austerely backed by the Phil's string section, sounded not like a moony dreamer but like a woman who'd managed through love to step back from the brink of profound disillusionment, of viewing life as "a bitter, tragic joke." Underscoring her un- derstatement, she let the song simply wind down and fade out.

The set started off light with the crowd-saluting "I Love Being Here With You" and alternated between the frothy delights of Cole Porter's "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love" and the Nat King Cole-popularized "The Frim Fram Sauce," and the bolder stylistic experiments of "Cheek to Cheek."

Krall's nimble piano playing and Hamilton's multi-angled brushwork rendered that latter song as a kind of Cubist deconstruction of the Irving Berlin standard.

The evening began with conductor Benjamin Wallfisch, in his Hollywood Bowl debut, leading the Phil in a pair of familiar Latin American pieces, Arturo Marquez's "Conga del fuego nuevo" and "Danzon No. 2" (a signature number for incoming L.A. Phil music director Gustavo Dudamel).

These were followed by the effortlessly urbane Juan Tizol-Duke Ellington composition "Caravan" and Ernesto Lecuona's fandango-flavored "Malaguena," both arranged for orchestra by Morton Gould.

Wallfisch, an Englishman who has worked extensively in film-score conducting, kept his baton firmly on the music's Latin pulse, commanding the rhythms as he caressed the melodies.

1 comment:

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