|March 25, 2002
BY JIM DEROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC
Midway through her sold-out show Saturday night, jazz phenom Diana Krall
paused to scold a man in the front row who'd placed his glass on the lip of
"What do you think this is, Jilly's West?" the comely Canadian snapped.
Then the vocalist and pianist thought better of her outburst. "Well, I am
singing saloon songs," she said with a smile.
She was indeed, and she delivered nearly two hours of them in an
accomplished set that could not be criticized on the basis of chops (either
hers or those of her backing trio), as some jazz purists do. ("Anything
that's selling that well can't be 'real' jazz!") The show's only
problem was the dominance of slow- to mid-tempo songs.
It would have been nice to hear more of the sassy, sexy bossa-nova
grooves that prevail on Krall's latest album, "The Look of Love," and less
ultra-sleepy material in the mode of her near-pulseless reading of Cole
Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin." In Krall's saloon, the clock on the
wall was darn near closing time, if it wasn't already after hours. This
would have been fine at the Jazz Showcase or the Green Mill, but the show
could have used a little more "oomph" in the sizable setting of the Chicago
Quibbles about song selection aside, Krall's dark, smoky voice was in
fine form, and she alternated with guitarist Anthony Wilson to stretch out
her traditional cabaret material with flights of instrumental fancy. (The
37-year-old is rarely given the props she deserves for her work tinkling the
ivories.) Her longtime bassist John Clayton continued to be a powerful
presence, and while the young Chicagoan George Fludas was no Peter Erskine,
he swung with style on the drums, especially during his deft brush work.
Krall continued to emphasize her fondness for Peggy Lee, opening and
closing the set proper with songs that Lee made famous, and chatting with
obvious fandom about "The Lady and the Tramp" and "Pete Kelly's Blues." It's
only a matter of time before Krall records her Lee tribute album, a la her
earlier disc of songs by Nat King Cole, and she hopes to portray Lee on film
(another horizon for the ambitious performer to cross).
The first encore, a sublime reading of "'S Wonderful," was another of the
evening's highlights. The only other misstep was when Krall returned one
more time to deliver a solo "Border Song." Even this usually dedicated rock
fan considers it a sin to follow George Gershwin with Elton John.