Concert Review: Diana Krall at Red Rocks in Denver

Diana_Krall.jpgDIANA KRALL AT RED ROCKS IN DENVER

I discovered this singer several years ago while traveling through Canada when my wife played me her CD. I asked her “Who is this fabulous old black singer? She sounds like Ella Fitzgerald.” When she showed me the CD cover, I was stunned. Diana Krall is a 41 year old rather striking blond chanteuse from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. But it’s her voice that is the most outstanding reason to go see her. This was her first performance at Red Rocks in Denver.

But the show started with a 45 minute set by Chris Botti. This gifted trumpeter set up the evening quite dramatically. He began with a stirring rendition of

  • Ave MariaChris_Botti.jpg

as unexpected as it was beautiful. He began only with a piano accompaniment, but then he was joined at the end with drums.

  • When I Fall in Love

added guitar, electric bass and drums. Even on this second song you could tell you were going to get your money’s worth. He’s an outstanding instrumentalist. Having played trumpet myself several centuries ago, I could appreciate both his lightning fast valve action as well as his staccato tongue work.

He introduced his pianist Peter Martin from New Orleans, who joined him on his next song, taken from the legendary Miles Davis hit album “Kind of Blue” which was a series of 5 chord changes but no lyric thread. Chris introduced it by saying that he himself grew up in the Jazz capital of the world — Corvallis, Oregon. But he was asked to give the talk when Miles Davis was inducted into Jazz Hall of Fame, as the natural choice, being the palest trumpeter they could find. Obligatory story: I caught Miles Davis some 35 years ago when he was performing in the renowned Berkeley Jazz Festival, as it was held at the Greek Theater. Along with Ike and Tina Turner, it was jazz on steroids.

  • Flamingo Sketches

with a mute in his horn, and a 20 second sustain, it don’t get no better.

Chris then introduced Mark Whitfield on the fire engine red guitar, and they played a duet.

The next song was originally done by Jeff Buckley, which Chris told us was recording in the studio next to the one he first recorded in. But Buckley died before finishing a second album, a great loss. Chris then played this song

  • Hallelujah

The Red Rocks amphitheater is an open air venue, with only the stage covered. At this point in the evening, the rain began to fall. While they were playing

  • A Thousand Kisses Deep

the guitarist played a riff of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” and the rest of the band jammed. This guitarists was so fast, he could play an answering echo to his own riff. He then introduced the next solo

  • Isn’t She Lovely

James Genus on bass was introduced as was Billy Kilson on drums. Chris then introduced the next song, from his favorite movie about a boy growing up in Italy. As the pianist began the theme from “The Godfather” Chris corrected him and said this was the love theme from

  • Cinema Paradiso

Following on that theme, he introduced his upcoming album Italia, coming in September of music inspired the the couple of years he spent living in Italy as a child. He will have songs featuring Andrea Bocelli and Dean Martin. “And Dean Martin still sounds fabulous!”

  • Indian Summer

sounded incredible, especially the second verse, which he did with the mute in that was so sassy. The song was quite kinetic and energetic with an extended drum solo. Man, could he slap hide! And his cymbal work was sizzling syncopation.

His part of the show ended, followed by a rather long 30 minute interval.

Diana_Krall_2.jpgDiana Krall took the stage, took a bow and began by saying “I am from British Columbia, I appreciate the elements” as the rain continued.

She’s taken a six month break as she’s recently had twins, with her husband Declan MacManus, who probably know better by his stage name Elvis Costello. She is currently in the midst of a 3 month tour of the U.S. in support of her album From This Moment On, her tenth album.

She began accompanied by only an upright bass, guitar, and drums. She launched into a Peggy Lee song

  • I Love Being Here With You

with each instrumentalist getting a solo in this mostly instrumental piece.

As the rain came down even harder she did a long intro to

  • Stormy Weather

but she actually turned it into the Cole Parther favorite she intended to play

  • Let’s Fall in Love

but her guitarist, during his particular solo, could not resist playing “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head.”

She introduced her band: Anthony Wilson on guitar, Jeff Hamilton on Drums, and Robert Hurst on upright bass. She told us that she was going to do a Nat King Cole hit, but teased us with the opening strains of Sesame Street.

  • I’ll String Along With You

and ended it with a few strains from the Nat King Cole song “Mona Lisa.”

  • Do I Love You, Indeed I Do

came next, but was brought up short by a cloud burst. She took a break “to move the furniture.” She had been wiping off the keyboard and her piano, but was on the edge of where the canopy covered the stage. She took the opportunity to chat with the audience saying, “Now you get to see what I look like before I come on stage. Living on Vancouver Island, we get rain about 300 days a year. If it hasn’t rained for a while, I get anxious in a Woody Allen kind of way. You probably heard that I had twins… last week. And now I’ve been living on a bus for weeks eating food. Now I’m ready to record my children’s album ‘If You’re Happy And you Know It Clap You Hands’.”

Diana_Krall2.jpgShe went on to play many more songs, including the standards you’d expect. Though she had to wipe her piano and nose a number of times, her deep, throaty, confident phrasing reminded me of a young Barbara Streisand. She can hold a phrase longer than you’d expect, but still make it work. It was magic.

 

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com

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