Diana Krall ages like fine wine
Jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall’s recent fifth visit to Kuala Lumpur might have been low-key, but it was no less memorable.
She tinkled the ivories and teased Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) with her sultry voice on Monday night. It was probably her most intimate show here considering the venue’s 900 capacity, with premium tickets hitting the RM1,620 mark.
Krall made her first KL visit in 2001 when she was part of the Philips International Jazz Festival.
As a modest yet commanding performer on the DFP stage, the 51-year-old Canadian knew how to illuminate the hall with her music.
Her interpretations of jazz standards and pop rock favourites were a big part of this one-night Wallflower World Tour stop here.
Krall’s Wallflower album, released last year, featured pop ballads from the 1960s and 1970s, including tracks from Bob Dylan, The Mamas And The Papas, The Eagles and Elton John. If you remember, her 2012 album Glad Rag Doll brought together an array of pre-WWII jazz classics.
In recent years, Krall has collected and toured with this delightful scrapbook of songs.
After a brief hello, Krall launched into the jazz evergreen Deed I Do, which she recorded on her Live In Paris in 2002.
Her smoky, mellow vocals, immediately had the attention of the full house, which included the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.
For a quick tempo change, Krall cranked things up with the swinging bossa nova classic So Nice. On stage, Krall’s accompanying quintet, comprising bassist Dennis Crouch, drummer Karriem Riggins, guitarist Anthony Wilson, keyboardist Kevin Warren and fiddle player Stuart Duncan, were absolutely sensational.
Hipsters familiar with US label Stones Throw Records would have enjoyed Riggins’ solid grooves, too. The jazz singer and her band bounced off each other, delivering several spirited gems, especially the wonderful On The Sunny Side Of The Street, and moving versions of You Call It Madness and Just Like A Butterfly That’s Caught In The Rain.
A fiddle player is not a usual musician in a jazz band but Duncan, a Grammy-winning bluegrass musician, added plenty to the mix.
He was instrumental in turning Tom Waits’ art song-meets-carnival music gem Temptation – which Krall recorded in 2004 on her The Girl In The Other Room album – into the best moment of the night.
Duncan played his fiddle like a mandolin/ukulele, using his fingers to swiftly strum and pizzicato (pluck the strings), then moved to the bow as the music continued to swell. His exchange with Wilson, who added a fiery electric guitar solo, absolutely sparked. Krall also pushed herself harder to keep the momentum going as the other band members displayed their solo skills.
After wrapping up Temptation to wild applause, the quintet left the stage. Krall took over to perform her romantic shift, bringing out her contralto vocals in Let’s Face The Music And Dance, I Don’t Know Enough About You and But Not For Me.
She seemed more at ease on the piano by herself. The band then came back on.
Alas, though this was meant to be her Wallflower tour, she only played two songs from the album (the title track, written by Dylan, and The Mamas And The Papas classic California Dreamin’). The album, her 12 studio outing, was produced by David Foster.
Her voice lingered over the piano during Wallflower but sorry Mrs Elvis Costello, I still prefer Dylan’s original version.
Once she played the opening notes of The Look Of Love, smiles and sighs came on for those on post-Valentine’s Day dates.
The song, though not as lush as her studio version, was smooth enough with the help of the sensual fiddle (that’s a first!). Yes, Krall whispered her voice so close to the microphone that you could almost feel her breath.
And what is a Krall concert without an encore? She delivered a generous send-off, indeed. Out came the gold rush with Exactly Like You, This Dream Of You, Ophelia, and Whispering Pines. If that wasn’t enough, she saved the best for last with East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon).
Frank Sintra would have approved of such a goodnight gesture.