[JPL] A Traditionalist Takes Off Along the Edge of Audacity
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Sat Aug 28 16:42:58 EDT 2004
A Traditionalist Takes Off Along the Edge of Audacity
August 26, 2004
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
Diana Krall arrived at Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday
evening with a lot to prove. Having methodically built a
career as a formidable pop-jazz traditionalist who
suggested a hybrid of Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole and Oscar
Peterson, Ms. Krall seemed poised to coast for decades
recording tasteful albums of standards.
But recently Ms. Krall, the Canadian singer and pianist,
made the kind of break with the past that few performers of
her stature would dare. Jumping into the adult-contemporary
arena, she released an album, "The Girl in the Other Room"
(Verve), whose songs include six original collaborations
with her new husband, Elvis Costello. With its tough,
stripped-down pop- jazz arrangements and unfamiliar
material, the album invited her loyal audience to rough it
in the wilderness after the warm, soothing baths of her
last two, lavishly orchestrated albums.
The boldness of Ms. Krall's leap recalls Barbra Streisand's
first venture into contemporary music and Linda Ronstadt's
sudden embrace of traditional pop (a gesture some feel
justifies her exclusion from the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame). A moderate success, "The Girl in the Other Room" may
have gained Ms. Krall new fans, but it has infuriated
longtime supporters, and many have registered their
displeasure in consumer reviews on Amazon.com.
At Radio City Music Hall, where she concluded a 34-city
tour, Ms. Krall was not backing down. Although there were a
fair number of walkouts, the capacity audience generally
expressed a cautious approval of a concert that pushed
pop-jazz to an unusual level of sophistication for a large
concert hall. Appearing with a trio that included Anthony
Wilson on guitar, Robert Hurst on bass and Peter Erskine on
drums, Ms. Krall performed much of the new album, along
with a few oldies, concluding the evening with a voice-
and-piano version of her sturdiest original song, the
bittersweet "Departure Bay."
For inspiration, Ms. Krall has always looked only to the
best. The principal muse informing her original material is
her fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell. And the knotty new
songs, with their wandering melodies, introspective lyrics,
and jazz instrumental breaks owe much to Ms. Mitchell's
music, especially to the album, "Hejira."
Two of Ms. Krall's collaborations with Mr. Costello,
"Abandoned Masquerade" and "The Girl in the Other Room,"
have a torchy film-noir undertone that was accented on
Tuesday by Ms. Krall's striking appearance in a white silk
dress. Her growling versions of Tom Waits's and Kathleen
Brennan's "Temptation" and Ms. Mitchell's "Black Crow" also
toyed with the femme fatale imagery that suggested the
movie "Body Heat." The concert's most satisfying moment was
a slow-burning, smoky rendition of the vintage torch song
"You Call It Madness."
Throughout the concert, Ms. Krall displayed a new
improvisatory audacity, stretching her dark, whispery voice
toward a blues shout, dredging up expressive growls,
bending notes and, as always, swinging like a gymnast from
phrase to phrase.
Ms. Krall is obviously reaching for something very high. If
it is still not quite within her grasp, you can only
applaud the courage it takes to make such a dangerous and
unnecessary leap into unknown territory.
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
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