Many years ago, after Tony Bennett made a singing appearance on The Tonight Show, host Johnny Carson told him how great his voice sounded that night. When Bennett appeared surprised, Carson asked him if there was anything different about his voice, and Bennett sheepishly replied, “I have a cold.”
Flash forward to Oct. 12, 2018, where Tony Bennett’s most recent recording partner, Diana Krall, is about ready to perform her Turn Up the Quiet show at New Brunswick, NJ’s State Theatre where word is making its way around the lobby from fans in the know that she, too, is presently suffering from a cold.
Diana Krall is a jazz singer and pianist who was born in British Columbia, Canada. Her father played the piano at home and her mother sang in a community choir. Diana started studying piano when she was four years old, and by the time she was 15, she was playing in local restaurants and bars.
While still a teen, Diana was awarded a scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music. After two years, she moved to Los Angeles where she met jazz bassist, Ray Brown, who became her musical mentor. Upon moving to Toronto, Krall released her first album, Stepping Out, in 1993. Her 1994 sophomore effort, Only Trust Your Heart, featured Brown on bass, in addition to tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine.
Throughout the ’90s, Krall grew increasingly popular, especially with the 1999 release of When I Look In Your Eyes, a recording which spent 52 weeks in the #1 position on Billboard’s jazz chart and was even nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year, putting her in competition with such top pop artists as Santana, The Backstreet Boys, The Dixie Chicks, and TLC.
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In 2003, she married British singer/songwriter Elvis Costello. The couple’s twin sons, Dexter and Frank, were born on December 6, 2006.
To date, Krall is the only jazz singer to have eight albums debut at the top of the Billboard jazz albums chart; her recordings have also earned her five Grammy Awards, in addition to nine gold, three platinum, and seven multi-platinum albums!
As we make our way inside the State Theatre auditorium, we take a moment to chat with several audience members who tell us a little bit about their appreciation for Diana Krall and her music.
Says Dave from Hazelton, PA, “I’m a big fan of Diana’s! I first saw her at the Algonquin in NYC when she started doing cabaret in the late ’80s. Since then, I’ve purchased all of her albums, which I’ve added to my collection of 12,000 vinyl jazz LPs!”
Excited to be seeing her for the first time “since she’s become big,” Dave also informs us that “her new album with Tony Bennett — Love is Here to Stay — is really good!”
Alan from Ewing tells us, “I’ve been a fan of Diana Krall’s forever — since the beginning. I saw her 20 years ago at Princeton’s McCarter Theater and I have CDs of every single one of her albums.”
Adding, “I’m looking forward to experiencing her show tonight,” Alan contends, “She’s a great performer — a truly great pianist and singer.”
As we take our seats in the packed auditorium, we notice a deep blue light illuminating a grand piano, a drum set, and an upright bass, all set up on the stage as soft recorded jazz welcomes patrons to this historic venue.
The lights dim as drummer Kariem Riggens and bassist Robert Hurst take their respective places on the stage and then Diana Krall enters to large applause before taking a seat at the piano.
Opening with “Deed I Do,” Krall’s voice sounds full and sultry as she sings, “Do I love you/Oh my, I do.” Her piano playing is light and breezy with a rollicking feel to it, and the audience immediately shows their love for Diana by breaking into avid applause for her delightful solo. Hurst slaps up and down his bass as he walks along, and cheers emanate from the crowd as Riggens rolls and punctuates the number with rhythm before Krall reenters and ends the song with a flourish!
After introducing her band members, Hurst opens the next number, “All Or Nothing At All” with a bass solo. When Krall enters with her deep contralto voice, she gives it her all, sounding sultry and expressive until the mood turns and she nudges her mic away to concentrate on her piano playing. As she weaves her way through this American Songbook classic, she shows complete command of her instrument — her solo both rigorous and compelling — all while being deftly accompanied by her bassist and drummer.
Following large applause, Krall begins to sing an ad hoc a cappella version of “Adelaide’s Lament” from Guys and Dolls, crooning the lyrics, “A person could develop a cold,” and explaining to the audience that she’s singing “a little lower tonight than usual” and “playing in different keys,” before thanking the audience for their understanding for her current health predicament.
Introducing a song recorded by Nat King Cole which Krall says, “is about love — whether you have a cold or not!” she launches into “You Call It Madness.” Singing, “I can’t forget the night I met you/That’s all I’m dreaming of/And now you call it madness/But I call it love” — her cold notwithstanding — Krall beautifully handles the song’s lovely melody as Riggens keeps time with brushes and Hurst fills in on the bottom with his stand-up bass.
Announcing “You can sing along any time you like — I’m a pretty good accompanist,” Krall segues into “Night and Day,” a cut from her latest solo recording, 2017's Turn Up the Quiet. The easy Latin feel of the song propels the motion forward as Diana gives a tour de force vocal and instrumental performance on this Cole Porter classic. The trio even surprises the audience with a fade-out ending performed live as the musicians quietly conclude the song!
Moving on to another cut from Turn Up the Quiet, Krall and Co. perform “L-O-V-E.” Opening with a stride piano intro, Krall’s voice enters singing the famous “L is for the way you look at me” lyric. The soft tinkling of her piano playing is restrained, and her choice of silences say as much as the sounds she uses to create an enchanting mood. After the tune meanders with piano, bass, and drums all functioning as a single coherent unit, the song switches over to an upbeat rhythm and Krall plays a dynamic chordal piano solo as the trio gives a master class in the use of dynamics in jazz.
Gazing at a stack of sheet music strewn on top of her piano and talking out loud to herself, Krall says, “There are so many great songs — choose something, Diana!” After one excited fan suggests she perform “I’m Confessin’” Krall replies, “How does it go?” before lamenting, “I’d have to switch all my keys, but I could do it as a part of a medley…”
After settling upon a song by Irving Berlin, Krall announces, “We all need some love. I’m here to make you feel better… or just to make you feel.”
At this point, Diana performs a lovely rendition of “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” the song’s Latin rhythm juxtaposed with her blues-influenced vocal. With her unique phrasing adding to the dancelike feel of this classic number, Krall’s fingers dance on the piano before Hurst skillfully strums his bass to end the piece.
One of many highlights of Krall’s performance tonight is her rendition of “Cheek to Cheek.” Singing “Heaven, I’m in heaven/And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak,” Krall’s voice delights the crowd before she takes off on the piano, playing oh-so-quickly yet oh-so-softly as Hurst goes to town on his bass. After Riggens takes a drum solo, riding the cymbals as he raps on the snare, the trio changes the feel and Hurst takes a solo. Then, Krall rejoins the fray and — as if they’re playing a Dave Brubeck arrangement — the trio explores time and multiple modalities in music, the crowd loving this exercise in advanced musicality.
Following enormous applause, Hurst and Riggens take leave of the stage so that Krall can deliver one of the highlight performances of the year — a brilliant solo rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” As Diana plays the beautiful introduction, the lights dim and then rise behind her with illuminating fog and rays of white light raining down on her as she sings, “Oh, you’re in my blood like holy wine/You taste so bitter and so sweet/Oh, I could drink a case of you.” Krall’s piano sounds like an orchestra accompanying her rich, contralto voice, helping her to create a poignant, stunning, soul-baring rendition of the song which brings audience members to tears.
Seguing into “How Deep is the Ocean (How High is the Sky),” Krall continues to perform with intense artistry. On this jazzy swinger, she is joined by Hurst on bowed string bass and by Riggens, playing his drums with mallets.
Telling the audience, “I’m so grateful we get to play what we feel when we like — we don’t have to keep to a plan,” Krall expresses happiness about being able to change her mind, exclaiming, “ I have so many ways to go!”
Acknowledging, “I’m doing much better now,” Krall asks, “How are all of you?” before declaring, “I need a big hug. I’m so emotional.”
A fan yells out, “How’s Elvis?” to which Krall responds, “He’s doing great. He has a new record out today!”
After another fan calls out, “We love you,” Diana replies with a smile, “I love you, too.”
Concluding her set with another highlight, “I Was Doing All Right,” Krall sings, “Nothing but rainbows in my sky/I was doing all right/Until you came by.” As she and her colleagues play, the music flows from their musical hands and minds straight to the audience’s awaiting ears and hearts.
Despite her cold, Krall ends with some inspired scat singing on this swinging and cinematic arrangement and the crowd rewards her with a standing ovation!
After the trio leaves the stage, the audience demands they return, and once they do, the group performs its first encore number, a piece which Diana calls “a song written by my favorite songwriter.”
Here, she and the trio perform a composition by her husband, Elvis Costello, entitled “Almost Blue.” On this gorgeous ballad, Krall opens with a piano introduction featuring dense and dissonant piano chords, before shifting into a jazzy blues feel as she passionately sings, “There’s a boy here and he’s almost you/Almost all the things that your eyes once promised.”
Telling the audience the story, “Lauren Bacall said in an interview that she would love to sit at a piano and sing Gershwin all day long,” Krall exclaims, “It’s great when Tony Bennett is singing with you; I just wanted to play piano and sing Gershwin with Tony Bennett — and I did!”
Here, Diana and Co. perform their second encore — a smooth jazz rendition of George and Ira Gershwin’s “‘S Wonderful.” On this light and breezy Latin-influnced interpretation, the interplay between the musicians is flawless. As they work together, the arrangement seamlessly sequences solos from each of the three musicians before the the trio concludes with another live fade ending.
For their third and final encore, Krall performs a bluesy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “This Dream Is You.” Singing, “All I have and all I know/Is this dream of you which keeps me living on,” through her music and lyrics, Krall thanks the audience from the bottom of her heart for sharing this memorable evening with her.
As audience members make their way out of the auditorium and into the State Theatre lobby, we chat with several in the crowd who share their opinions of tonight’s concert with us.
Exclaims Karen from Morristown, “Diana Krall was fabulous!”
Jeff from South Orange agrees noting, “This was our first time seeing her,” before Diane from South Orange adds, “She’s phenomenal — and so sincere.”
Kat, who is visiting from Stuart, Florida remarks, “Diana Krall is so sweet and sultry — her music brings you back to being in a jazz club,” before adding, “It’s surreal that it’s really her right there singing for you — it was really very lovely. I wish she’d come to South Florida!”
Patricia — a musician from Paramus — exclaims, “I loved this show — it was marvelous! Diana Krall’s piano playing was breathtaking. She has top-notch musicians, and the way they played around with time and the way they all followed each other was seamless!”
Lynne from Paramus concurs adding, “I felt totally engaged! I felt she was talking to me. It was very personal. She made me feel so comfortable.”
Alex, another musician from Hillsboro, remarks, “Diana Krall is such a tasteful piano player. She’s a treasure and she always has great talent around her. She’s the whole package.”
Lastly, we chat with Mu-hua from Edison, and her daughter, Julie.
Says Mu-hua, “I’ve been a fan of Diana’s for 20 years, and this was a very extraordinary concert. The arrangements were totally different from the way she plays the songs on her albums,” before noting, “This was a whole new experience — it really opened my mind!”
Daughter Julie, 12, agrees adding “It was really nice — I liked the whole show,” before concluding, “Tonight, Diana Krall said she wanted us to feel, and I did — I felt the love!’
To learn more about Diana Krall, please go to dianakrall.com. For information on upcoming performances at New Brunwick’s State Theatre — including Brian Wilson’s Greatest Hits Live with Special Guests Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin on Nov. 1, Toto’s 40 Trips Around the Sun Tour on November 13 , and Melissa Etheridge’s The Holiday Show on Nov. 30 — please go to stnj.org.Photos by Love Imagery
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