©Brett Delmage, 2017
Diana Krall and her band, including Robert Hurst on bass and Karriem Riggins on drums, gave a tight and dramatic performance in their first of two nights at Canada's National Arts Centre on December 1. ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Diana Krall: Turn Up The Quiet Tour (night 1)
NAC Presents
Southam Hall, National Arts Centre
Friday, December 1, 2017 – 8 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Diana Krall's latest album, Turn Up The Quiet, marks her return to classic jazz standards. So it was fitting that the first number in her Ottawa concert on Friday was a archetypal quintet rendition of “'Deed I Do”, a 1926 standard popularized by Benny Goodman – and a long-time favourite tune which she recorded in 2002.

It was a sparkling start to the concert, energetically combining all the musicians' talents, and showcasing each with nicely-timed solos. Krall's bands have all featured top-notch jazz musicians, and this time she appeared with four highly-regarded American jazz and bluegrass players, including her regular guitarist, Anthony Wilson, and bassist Robert Hurst. Drummer Karriem Riggins and fiddler Stuart Duncan also were with her in Ottawa in 2013. All but Hurst played on Turn Up The Quiet.

Krall has always been a favourite with Ottawa audiences, selling out her last few appearances at the NAC. For this show, the 2,065-seat Southam Hall was almost full, although there were some empty seats visible in the Orchestra section. Ottawa was one of the few cities on Krall's tour where she scheduled two concerts, with a second show on Saturday.

With ticket prices ranging from $70.50 – $160.50, the concert was definitely an “event”. Many of the listeners were dressed to match (although I also saw others in jeans). Before the show people were taking selfies of themselves with the stage as a backdrop. As soon as the music started, the enthusiasm was obvious, with strong applause right from the first solo. The applause gradation ranged from strong, to very strong, to extremely strong, to two standing ovations.

Dressed in an elegant silver Grecian-style gown, Krall gave them glamour – but also a solid jazz show. The pieces she picked were time-tested standards, plus two jazz-influenced pop songs and an original – and, as she told the audience, they were all about love. It was a similar lineup to what she'd played in Toronto and in Montreal in the previous week, but with a few substitutions, particularly in the encores. The arrangements were solid mainstream jazz, and allowed all the musicians to shine.

There were no songs from her two previous albums, Wallflower (a collection of 60s/70s pop hits), and Glad Rag Dolls (ragtime/early jazz pieces from the 20s and 30s).

Krall sang the songs with clear enjoyment, but her piano playing was at least an equal part of the music, propelling it forward. Throughout, she added Easter Eggs in her solos, quotes from other well-known jazz tunes that nicely fit in: a few bars of “Let It Snow” in the middle of “East of the Sun”, a snippet of “Don't Get Around Much Anymore” in “L-O-V-E”, “I'm beginning to see the light” in “Blue Skies”, “Sweet Georgia Brown” in “I Don't Know Enough About You”.

I hadn't been all that impressed with Krall's video of Nat King Cole's hit “L-O-V-E” from Turn Up The Quiet. I found it anemic and unexciting. But the live version was 100% better: Krall's understated lyrics were counterpointed by Stuart's fluid fiddling, Wilson's accented guitar lines, and her own bright cascades of notes on piano. She sang the lyrics with more gusto near the end of the song, as though she was thoroughly enjoying singing it and wasn't holding back. At the end of the piece, she told the audience she had seen a photo of Count Basie outside her dressing room at the NAC, and dedicated the song to him.

Krall opened “Isn't It Romantic” simply and almost hesitantly with just her voice and Wilson's light guitar. It was a warm and inviting rendition, featuring a sweet fiddle solo from Duncan, before ending with a melancholy, disquieting question: “Isn't it romance?”

Irving Berlin's “Blue Skies” was touched with Thelonious Monk in both Krall's piano style and Wilson's guitar, giving the perhaps-overly-cheerful lyrics an extra and appreciated edge. That combination inspired all the musicians, Hurst adding a clear and melodic bass solo, and Krall decorating the music with runs and repeated notes on piano and playing with the words in her vocals. The audience responded to that energy and playfulness with very strong applause for the solos and the song as a whole.

For Tom Waits' “Temptation”, the lights went down on stage, leaving the musicians outlined in red on a deep black background, and stage fog billowing in. Opening with just a strong drumbeat, this song was clearly meant as a show-stopper – and Krall delivered, singing the lyrics with a sultry edge. Duncan added Stéphane Grappelli-style violin (both bowed and pizzicato), and Wilson Django Reinhardt-style guitar in extended passages, the gypsy jazz influence making the song sound that much more exotic. The song ended strongly with a dancing beat and then faded out as the audience responded with extended applause.

Joni Mitchell's “A Case of You” was a particular standout. The projected image changed to a night sky, with the entire stage bathed in blue and white light and the musicians barely visible. Krall sang the lyrics very distinctly, making their Canadian references clear. Her singing was soulful and and almost reverential, her piano playing slow and expressive and romantic.The combination grabbed everyone's attention.

I've always loved Peggy Lee's songs, and Krall delivered “I Don't Know Enough About You” with zest in an upbeat rendition. This piece particularly featured Wilson and Duncan playing together, flowing guitar against strongly pizzicato fiddle notes, in an exciting duet.

In contrast to her 2013 show at the NAC, Krall didn't chat much with the audience, saying at one point that “I'm here to play music and sing, not to talk about it”. She seemed subdued except when actually playing, and had a false start to “On the Sunny Side of the Street”, when her foot got stuck on a pedal. She easily recovered with a bit of humour, though, once she got into the song and it turned into an exhilarating gypsy jazz extravaganza. Her voice also sounded a bit hoarse during one of the encores.

She closed with a double-time rendition of “Just You, Just Me”, a song she hadn't previously recorded, and unapologetically jazz. Krall's piano and Wilson's guitar were spitting out notes; Duncan added a muscular pizzicato fiddle solo, Hurst a snappy bass solo, and Riggins a rolling drum solo with cymbal crashes. While the cheerful lyrics set the mood, it was the spirited performances that made this piece a fine closer. Krall was intensely focused on the piano, with glissandos and fast pounding on the keys, before ending with a strong flourish.

After an extended standing ovation, Krall played three encores to close her 1¾-hour show. The audience shouted out suggestions, including many for “Peel Me a Grape”. She sounded more amenable to a Joni Mitchell number – “That's a whole other concert, but I would love that” – but what she picked for her first encore was “The Look of Love”, one of her big hits with producer Tommy LiPuma. As she began singing it, a large cheer came up from the audience.

Krall made at least nine albums with LiPuma – including Turn Up the Quiet, shortly before his death in March at age 80. While she didn't mention him at the concert, his presence was noticeable: all but two of the songs she performed were from albums he produced. She gave the “The Look of Love” a quiet and evocative performance, her soulful vocals underlined by Wilson's emphatic guitar lines, and ending in a flurry of notes.

The most moving of Krall's encores was the final one, “Departure Bay”, a song she co-wrote with her husband, Elvis Costello. It celebrated her memories of Vancouver Island where she grew up: “Arbutus trees and firs / The glistening of rain-soaked moss / Going to the Dairy Queen at dusk / … The salt air and the sawmills”. Behind her, the projection screen showed a waterfront scene from the island, and her heartfelt singing was a quiet and lovely reminiscence of home.

The audience responded with a second standing ovation.

It was great to see Krall back playing jazz at this show, because she has the style and verve and understanding to make it interesting, fun, and accessible to an audience beyond the niche. Her straight-jazz concerts share the energy and excitement of jazz and show why that music can still speak to a general audience.

Diana Krall performed a second Ottawa show at 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 2, in Southam Hall at the National Arts Centre. She continues the Canadian leg of her tour next week:

before resuming her tour in Florida in late January.

Set List (composer) (album)

  • 'Deed I Do (Fred Rose, Walter Hirsch) (Live in Paris)
  • L-O-V-E (Milt Gabler / Bert Kaempfert) (Turn Up The Quiet)
  • Isn't It Romantic? (Lorenz Hart / Richard Rodgers) (Turn Up The Quiet)
  • Night and Day (Cole Porter) (Turn Up The Quiet)
  • Blue Skies (Irving Berlin) (Turn Up The Quiet)
  • On the Sunny Side of the Street (Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh) (Stepping Out)
  • Temptation (Tom Waits) (The Girl in the Other Room)
  • A Case of You (Joni Mitchell) (Live in Paris)
  • Moonglow (Edgar Delange / Will Hudson / Irving Mills) (Turn Up The Quiet)
  • I Don't Know Enough About You (Dave Barbour / Peggy Lee) (Live in Rio)
  • Just You, Just Me (Jesse Greer / Raymond Klages)

Encores:

  • The Look of Love (Burt Bacharach / Hal David) (Live in Paris, The Look of Love)
  • East of the Sun (and West of the Moon) (Brooks Bowman) (Live in Paris)
  • Departure Bay (Elvis Costello / Diana Krall) (The Girl in the Other Room)

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