by Ivan Hewett
October 30, 2009
It's taken barely a decade for Diana Krall to transform herself from the quietly intense chanteuse playing little venues like Pizza Express to jazz's one and only diva, able to fill the Albert Hall for three nights at a stretch. What's changed? In essence, nothing at all. It's just that the record business has discovered Krall's genius for making her audience feel secure. She draws people into an intimate space, not to alarm or move them with songs about real emotional depths, or to share anything really personal.
It's simply to enjoy that feeling of being 'up close and personal'. That feeling is augmented by the between-songs chat, where Krall tells stories about taking the kids to the park, and her new-found happiness with husband Elvis Costello. She roams around the Great American Songbook, but never very far. All the songs she bought out for us were copper-bottomed hits, already engraved in our memories by singers like Nat King Cole (it's no accident his voice was piped into the hall as we entered, just in case there was any doubt what we were in for).
The other factor that makes us sit back with a sigh and simply enjoy is that Krall really is very good. She has an eye for good collaborators, and in bassist Robert Hurst, drummer Kareem Wiggins and guitarist Anthony Wilson she had the perfect quartet. The little moments of interplay between Wilson's soft-toned guitar sound and Krall's agile right hand at the piano were like the dash of bitters in the perfect cocktail.
As for Krall herself, she has that cast-iron technique which marks the real star. She took "Dancing Cheek to Cheek" at a pace which could have turned the words into a gabble, but she made it seem easy. Meanwhile the alert concentration of her piano-playing never slipped for a second. Krall is in truth more remarkable as a piano-player than a singer. She plays engagingly with the shape of phrase in a way she hardly allows herself as a singer, and often her musing piano intros (such as the one to Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You") were more affecting than the songs themselves. Right at the end, as if to confound her critics, she gave a rendition of Lerner and Loewe's "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face" (changed from the original as an offering to her husband) which really did touch the depths.
Krall Chortles and Fingerclicks Her Way Back to Where She Belongs
by John Fordham
October 30, 2009
If the audience at the first show of Canadian diva Diana Krall's three-night London run came expecting a faithful copy of the pillow-talk music from her current album Quiet Nights, they didn't get it. But, judging by the cheers, they certainly didn't seem disappointed. Krall had chosen instead to roll through an upbeat two-hour jazz set, sounding as if she couldn't imagine anything more pleasurable than spending an evening around the piano with 5,000 strangers.There were fewer pin-drop moments and rather more amiably rambling family anecdotes than usual -- but also a lot more piano-playing and jazz quotes. So the hardliners (including me) who believe she long ago abandoned her roots for the easy-listening market had, on this occasion, to back off.
Late in the show, Krall and her guitarist Anthony Wilson even left the smoochy script of Boy from Ipanema to veer into Count Basie's cannily swinging Jive at Five. She let out a chortle of delight as Wilson caught her drift. This typified the whole gig. Wilson, bassist Robert Hurst, and particularly drummer (and sometime hip-hop producer) Karriem Riggins brought a changed attack to the Krall road-band. It would be hard to imagine Riggins's roaring percussion engine purring quietly through a low-lights set.
Krall snapped her fingers into a flying tempo on I Love Being Here With You, to which Wilson initially seemed to be clinging by his fingernails. Let's Fall in Love and I've Grown Accustomed to His Face indicated that the singer's languid timing and swooping note-bends are now often augmented by an increasingly cavalier (almost Van Morrison-like) distortion of the way words sound. So Nice was a cool Latin swinger, and Nat King Cole's The Frim Fram Sauce had a breezy Fats Waller piano intro and a superb double-time bass break.
Krall arrived at Walk On By via a fragile piano medley of Bacharach themes before turning the softly stepping song into a defiantly soulful anthem. She filled the room with the quietest confidences and almost sax-like exhalations of air on delicate accounts of Joni Mitchell's I Could Drink a Case of You and Jobim's Quiet Nights. The encore was Departure Bay, a tribute to Krall's late mother, written with her husband Elvis Costello. It brought the show back to the muted territory Diana Krall more usually occupies -- but the contrasts of the evening seemed only to heighten its haunting eloquence.