By Don Heckman
Diana Krall just keeps getting better. She strolled across the stage at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday night with all the confident panache of the major musical star she has become.
What a difference from the Diana I knew nearly two decades ago. The Diana who then sometimes remarked about her recurrent fantasy that she might trip on the hem of her gown and fall to the stage if she took more than two steps away from the safety of her piano bench.
But that’s all gone now. Saturday night’s Diana, a musical gem in the elegant setting of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by her close friend Alan Broadbent, positively glowed in a performance embracing the full range of music – vocal, instrumental and both – that her art now possesses.
In addition to the Philharmonic, she was also in the company of her regular creative associates, guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Kariem Riggins. Together and individually they played with the full range of swing, subtlety and sophistication that Krall’s interpretations demand, with Wilson’s soloing serving as both a catalyst and a counter to her vocals.
In her early years, Krall’s singing often seemed driven by the rhythms and the flow of her piano playing rather than the lyrics of a song. Since then, she has become a convincing musical story teller, finding the heart and expressing the inner meanings of songs via the phrasing and rhythms of jazz.
Those qualities were especially apparent in her renderings of “I Just Found Out About Love,” “Let’s Face the Music” (including the verse), “I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face” and Gordon Jenkins’ emotionally rich “Goodbye,” done as an encore with the Philharmonic. Add to that her atmospheric version of Jobim’s bossa nova classic, “Corcovado” and a pair of briskly swinging takes on “Fly Me To The Moon” and “Pick Yourself Up.” Her unexpected shift, at one point, into a delightful version of the Beatle’s “Come Together,” suggested a whole new area of repertoire for her to explore
And there was a lot more: Wilson’s soloing on “Love Letters,” “I Was Doing All Right” and “Cheek To Cheek”; Hurst’s bass solo on “Do It Again”; and Riggins’ sturdy, propulsive drumming throughout.
The orchestral arrangements performed by the Philharmonic were mostly provided by Broadbent and German arranger Claus Ogerman – settings exquisitely designed to provide rich texture for Krall’s voice while capturing the mood and the meaning of a song. Broadbent also opened the performance with several of his own impressive works for orchestra.
Four years ago, I reviewed a Krall concert at the Hollywood Bowl with virtually all the same participants (except for drummer Riggins). I had a carp or two to make then about some of her vocal tonal qualities. But no more. Her work now is admirable in every aspect. A mature, imaginative and assured musical artist, she has accomplished the rare feat of balancing multi-layered creativity with an abundant capacity to entertain and illuminate.
Photos by Bonnie Perkinson.