Enticing and engaging

An intimate evening of music with Canadian jazz singer/pianist Diana Krall inside the Muriel Kauffman Theatre delighted audience members with favorites old and new.

Diana Krall has a little bit of something for everyone, as she showcased at the Kauffman Center on Saturday night. Out to support her latest release, Turn Up the Quiet, Krall, along with Robert Hurst on bass, Karriem Riggins on drums, Anthony Wilson on guitar, and Stuart Duncan on fiddle, gave Kansas City audiences a night of jazz standards and a few folk/rock covers. Although her vocal range has diminished somewhat over the years, her emotional range is at an all-time high, delivering sultry, enticing numbers with the same gusto as the more lighthearted songs, as she held the large audience in the palm of her wandering, if sometimes slightly absent-minded, hand.

This latest release, which came out in 2017, is full of jazz standards, and it’s nice to hear this well-known crossover artist reach back to her roots, almost a “homecoming” to where she started. The larger concert hall setting for a venue was a concern for this soft spoken singer, but luckily for audience members the excellent sound crew kept things well-balanced, and not a note was lost to our ears. Krall quickly entered the stage, sat at her piano, and the night began. She is well known for her reserved style, and this night was no exception. That’s not to say that this music was at any time boring, her eight number one releases on the Billboard charts can attest for that interest in her style. The style draws you in, and takes you to new places, and for a group that stays so “in the box” during a live concert, you can still expect a few ventures out, at least to the box’s corners.

The concert, similarly to the album, is full of well-recognized jazz standards, such as “Deed I Do,” which appeared on her 2002 Live in Paris recording, a fun, uptempo swing that set the mood for fun and laughter with the seasoned performer. A nod to Cole Porter as the group broke into “L-O-V-E”, a nice, even-tempered version very much in Krall’s signature style. Plenty of solo space was given to her touring musicians, but it was guitarist Anthony Wilson and violinist Stuart Duncan who really shined. Wilson, who seems comfortable in a number of styles, was enjoyable to watch perform, one of the only animated performers on stage, and someone who Krall could play back and forth with as she was comping during his space. The addition of Duncan is an interesting and welcome choice, not only does he add an additional melodic voice on his fiddle, but his background in bluegrass (he appeared with Yo-Yo Ma and Chris Thile on the Goat Rodeo Sessions) helps the folk covers peppered throughout the evening shine. His addition of the guitar “wah” pedal to his fiddle sound at one point was ingenious, and, although hard to see from the audience, he added some sort of phonograph-horn or trumpet-bell shaped instrument to his violin, which gave him the fascinating sound of a steel guitar.

The night was just about an hour and a half with no intermission. Other jazz standard-favorites of Krall’s fans, such as the Lester Young chart “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)” were well performed, as expected to anyone familiar with her albums, but it was two unexpected charts that caught audience ears and drew them in, a cover of Tom Waits “Temptation” and Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia.” The later, made famous on Mitchell’s 1976 release, was the one chart of the night that Krall stayed closest to the original, similar tempo, and, in a connection that rarely gets made, the similarities between Mitchell and Krall’s vocal styles.  “Temptation” appears on her 2004 album, but this performance stood out, as the stage lights turned red, a fog machine had smoke dancing seductively across the stage, and the tempo was slowed to an almost painful (in an all-too-good way) pace.

As Krall’s career heads toward its third decade, its apparent that audiences are still hanging on her every word, every note at the piano. Some of them we have heard many times before, a few of them are brand new to our ears, but all of them are a welcome, engaging release to simpler times, and the raw emotional beauty that can be found in music.

Kauffman Center Presents
Diana Krall: Turn Up The Quiet Tour
Saturday, June 16, 2018
Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
1601 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108
For more information, visit https://www.kauffmancenter.org/