In Concert

Saturday, 01 July 2017 02:12

Diana Krall Uncovers Jewels and Rediscovers Standards at Ravinia Concert Featured

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Diana Krall Uncovers Jewels and Rediscovers Standards at Ravinia Concert Photos Courtesy of Ravinia - Patrick Gipson

As a fan, it was a delight to see Diana Krall live for the first time at the beautiful Ravinia Festival in Highland Park - one of the first stops on this highly successful jazz performer's lastest world tour.

"Highly successful jazz performer" is a string of words rarely set together, but Krall has wrought something of a miracle in jazz circles, attaining popularity that at least in one ranking surpasses other contemporary female jazz vocalists like Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Natalie Cole, and Jane Monheit, though that list has missed a couple greats like, oh, Sade, Dianna Reeves and Cassandra Wilson. 

Krall showed why she deserves that popularity on Wednesday night. Despite a mild threat of a warm downpour, the Ravinia Pavilion and lawn were well filled, a tribute to this skilled performer's cultivation of devoted fans. Doubtless there are many like me who are attracted as much by Krall’s open, warm-hearted personality, as by her music.

Striding to the Steinway as her band mates settled in, Krall and company got right down to business with an up-tempo “Do I Love You,” then jumped into a mix of songs – some truly stunning interpretations – along with a number of beautifully delivered tracks from her May 5 album, “Turn Up the Quiet” (Verve).

For Krall the Ravinia setting strikes the right balance between her broad appeal to bigger audiences, and the intimacy required by jazz, with ensemble members improvising in solo departures from a unifying theme. As a contemporary jazz performer, Krall is a rarity with her commercial success – a five time Grammy winner and steady platinum level album sales. This is her ninth album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Jazz Chart.

And while she claims to be shy, Krall seems to hold the audience without really trying. “I’m from Vancouver – I’m used to this,” Krall said as scattered droplets of warm rain pelted the lawn and encroached on a song. Then the clouds diminished and she was non-stop music for two hours, with fresh takes on classics like Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E,” as well as songs by Carlos Jobim, Peggy Lee, Joni Mitchell, and Tom Waits from her earlier albums.

With "Turn Up the Quiet," Krall taps into the Great American Songbook, and she performed at Ravinia several of her renditions, such as Rodgers and Hart’s “Isn’t It Romantic, which was thrilling and fresh, as was her version of the standard, “Blue Skies,” performed in a trio on her album with bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone. Cole Porter favorite “Night and Day” was likewise engaging.

Peggy Lee’s "Jack of All Trades" departed on the voyage that jazz represents for me - each member of the ensemble providing their take on a song that was an endless melodic discovery while also could have continued forever, as far as I was concerned. 

For me the show-stopper at Ravinia was the cover of Tom Wait’s “Temptation,” first released on a recording of a 2001 live performance in Paris. While Krall approaches jazz with intense constraint, in last night’s performance of “Temptation” that constraint is pushed to its limits, and every member of the ensemble is given his due time. In the course of this number a solo violin is strummed and plucked like a ukelele, to stunning effect. While Krall can come off as a bit modulated, Temptation is her musical vision unchained. If she can do that, she can do whatever she pleases.    

Riffing on that theme of "Turn Up the Quiet," one must listen intently to really hear Krall's mastery. A revelation for me was Krall’s rendition of fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell’s plaintive, “A Case of You.” I had not heard Krall's version before, and was blown away by the mash-up of Mitchell themes that Krall jazzified at the Steinway. I’ve got a lot more listening ahead of me just to deconstruct that single song.

Ravinia is a step along the way for Krall’s world tour to promote the album, beginning state-side and heading the Europe in September. The recordings I have of Diana Krall are meticulously produced, and very controlled performances – but still alive with the improvisational flavor of jazz. In person, Krall is highly polished performer, but her invention and movement with the moment is heightened on stage, and she is one with the ensemble, and even more striking as a pianist than a singer, to my mind. 

For those who don't know Diana Krall - despite her popularity - I have found that mentioning she is the mother of twin 10 year old's with her husband, a somewhat well-known rock star, helps them place her.  But out of respect for her talent, which I enjoy far more than her spouse's, I am not mentioning him here. 

Last modified on Sunday, 02 July 2017 12:59
Bill Esler

A native Chicagoan, Bill Esler has been a printer and publisher for more than 35 years. He has B.A. in English with a concentration in writing from Knox College. 



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