Thursday, June 25, 2009

DK @ Carnegie Hall - NYT & Variety reviews

(pic by Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times)

A review of Diana Krall's Carnegie Hall concert on June 23 was printed today in The New York Times. At long last a critic understood Claus Ogerman's concept, showing a good perception of his orchestrations to Ms. Krall. Congrats, Mr. Holden!
There's also a review on "Variety."
The Voice Is Dark and the Emphasis Mysterious
A version of this article appeared in print on June 25, 2009, on page C3 of the New York edition.

A subdued Diana Krall held forth on Tuesday at Carnegie Hall, where she gave the first of two concerts on consecutive nights with a 41-piece orchestra, augmented by a jazz trio (Jeff Hamilton on drums, Robert Hurst on bass, and Anthony Wilson on guitar). The music, much of it from her recent bossa-nova flavored album, “Quiet Nights” (Verve), maintained an aura of hushed introspection with occasional blips of swing, when her sturdy jazz pianism came to the fore.

When Ms. Krall paused to talk, her remarks — about traveling on a tour bus with her 2 ½-year-old twin sons; about meeting President Obama, who she said was unaware that her husband is Elvis Costello (he was impressed); about the similarity of New York’s recent rainy weather to the climate in her native Vancouver, British Columbia — were dry observations, offered in a low voice with barely a trace of a smile.

“Quiet Nights,” which closely follows the format of her enormously successful 2001 album, “The Look of Love,” has reversed the downward trajectory of Ms. Krall’s record sales. Both albums, arranged and orchestrated by Claus Ogerman, feature music that works equally well as ambient sound for the bedroom and restaurant and as foreground music of considerable psychological complexity.

Together Ms. Krall and Mr. Ogerman (who was absent; Alan Broadbent conducted the orchestra) treat songs as film-noir fragments in which everything remains ambiguous and unresolved. Ms. Krall doesn’t interpret lyrics in a literary manner. With her dark whispery alto, she slithers through songs in short stop-start phrases that sometimes reduce a melody to a single repeated note. One string of words may be elongated with an emphasis on a vowel or a scooped-up syllable; the next grouping may be nearly swallowed as she hurries to catch up.

The effect is to turn songs into mysterious stream-of-consciousness ruminations. Adopting a jazz singer’s prerogative, she turns standards (“Where or When,” “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” “Love Letters”) expressing familiar romantic sentiments into semi-abstract, personal reflections whose meanings may not necessarily coincide with — and may even contradict — the words as written.

At the same time Mr. Ogerman’s lush arrangements, with their cool, sighing choruses of woodwinds and strings, carry advanced chromaticism to the edge of dissonance. Instead of a harmonic happy ending, the typical arrangement fades out like a ghost in the fog. The combination of voice and orchestration sustains an undercurrent of erotic tension fraught with foreboding. The truth remains hidden. That aura of ambiguity applied even to those numbers, like “P.S. I Love You” and “A Case of You,” that Ms. Krall sang while accompanying herself on piano, without the orchestra.

The concert’s somber mood was interrupted by some moments of hard swing (“ ’Deed I Do” and “I Love Being Here With You,” the latter prefaced by an extended stride piano solo) in which Ms. Krall’s emphasis on vocal sound over verbal elucidation was even more pronounced. Yes, on one level, Ms. Krall is a middle-of-the-road pop-jazz diva. But just below the surface lies an interpreter who is talking to herself in a private language that is all about rhythm.
Diana Krall (Carnegie Hall; 2,804 seats)
by Robert L. Daniels
Variety, June 25, 2009

More than a decade ago, Diana Krall made her Gotham cabaret debut fronting a trio in the intimate Oak Room. This week the Grammy-winning jazz baby returned to Carnegie Hall for a two-show turn backed by the luxury of a 40-plus piece orchestra to celebrate the release of her Verve CD "Quiet Nights." Just when the fine art of jazz singing seems doomed, Krall's cool, understated presence and poise mark her as the keeper of the flame.

Krall's own feathery piano accompaniment reflects the inspiration of Nat "King" Cole, who in his trio days could make "Exactly Like You" a swinging testament to cocktail jazz. She also has a fondness for the old movie tunes, prompting a rare recall of Victor Young's "Love Letters," which pays homage to the lost art of ardent correspondence.

Krall's voice boasts decided allure, occasionally accented by a raspy little infectious purr in her throat.

At her most seductive, Krall turns the Rodgers and Hart query "Where or When" into a sultry search party, and with a poetically pure sense of discovery, she makes "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face" a personal romantic revelation. In the spacious concert hall, Krall still manages to summon an intimacy that leaves listeners breathlessly involved in the romantic narrative.

Krall's piano accompaniment boasts an effortless sense of swing and swagger. From her rhythmic new bossa-flavored CD she offered a lithe reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim's title track "Quiet Nights."

As the orchestra sat one out, the stately blond diva revealed the smoky grandeur that defines the classic cabaret singer with "P. S. I Love You," the haunting Gordon Jenkins-Johnny Mercer love letter that conveys loneliness and longing with measured heartbreak. Krall's storytelling gifts were never more poignantly evident.

For an encore Krall bid adieu with the torch singer's most telling farewell, Cole Porter's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye." The singer's comments between songs were brief, with only a casual mention of a White House performance, her 2-year-old twin boys and husband Elvis Costello.

Conducted with nuance and grace by Alan Broadbent, the orchestra lays a lush, cradling carpet of warmth, never intruding on the mood Krall so deftly and effortlessly creates.

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