Thursday, July 9, 2009

Diana Krall review - Albany Times-Union

Diana Krall Charms and Dazzles at Tanglewood
by Michael Janairo
Albany Times-Union, July 9, 2009

Diana Krall, the immensely popular jazz pianist and vocalist, proved her mettle Saturday night at a July 4 celebration at Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass., with a single concert that was like two shows in one.

A comfortable and relaxed Krall chatted with and charmed the audience from her Steinway grand piano. She led a jazz combo through some songs and a full orchestra through others, producing two distinct atmospheres and making Tanglewood seem much more intimate than the sprawling parklike grounds it is.

Opening with "I Love Being Here With You," she led the combo of Jeff Hamilton on drums, Robert Hurst on bass and Anthony Wilson on guitar through an energetic, up-tempo performance that carried through the evening.

Each instrumentalist was given a chance to shine in solos, with Krall's deft piano work a definite highlight of the evening.

The combo's energy extended to the other musicians on stage: the full orchestra that joined in on songs from Krall's most recent album, "Quiet Nights."

On the disc (which reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts), the lush arrangements by Claus Ogerman and Krall's subdued voice combine for a bossa-nova-influenced quiet tranquility. Live, the arrangements recalled more than a 1960s romanticism; rather, they had a plaintive undertone that gave the songs -- especially "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face" and the album's title song, "Quiet Nights" -- a darker and more dynamic hue.

Though stylistically rich and satisfying, the tone did seem at odds with her casual banter about how good her life was: being married to Elvis Costello (who was performing in Minneapolis), raising twin toddlers (with whom she strolled on the Tanglewood grounds before the show), touring the world and meeting President Obama and the first lady who, she said, surprised her by being huggers.

The audience -- quiet and respectful throughout the evening -- seemed to love her stories, including a long, digressive tale about how she had always been cast as the piano player in school plays and even had the same kind of role in the new Michael Mann film about John Dillinger, "Public Enemies." She said, "Not much has changed." The audience laughed.

If at times her singing voice was lost to the other musicians -- or to the placement of the microphone -- the biggest highlight of the evening was her piano playing and the musicianship of her jazz combo, especially on their arrangement of the Irving Berlin classic "Cheek to Cheek."

The musicians exuded a combination of focus and fun, as when Krall jumped in with a piano solo of "America the Beautiful" over the combo's quick pacing. Also in the same song, the drummer, Hamilton, played a phenomenal extended drum solo with brushes that so enraptured Krall that -- she later admitted -- she even forgot to start singing again.

The Argentine singer-songwriter Frederico Aubele opened the show with a collection of sultry and spirited songs. His assured guitar playing showed distinctive influences of bolero and tango, even if it made most songs sound similar. One stood out: his first single, "Postales" from 2003.

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