Most of the sniping about Diana Krall follows the pattern of fire that successful jazz artists have long drawn when they achieve even moderate success in the commerce of show business. The list of those charged with selling out when they became solvent includes Nat Cole, Dave Brubeck, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderley and, in his final crossover phase, Miles Davis. In recent years, market demand for jazz has not been high enough to develop many targets for critics who lie in wait to cry sell-out. Diana Krall is an exception. Not an innovator as a pianist or as a singer, she is talented in both areas, personally attractive, and has strong—if understated—leadership ability. She does not sell records or attract crowds in numbers approaching those of even low-level pop and rock stars, but as jazz audiences go in the new century, hers is sizeable.
Ms. Krall hires first-rate accompanists. She molds them into bands whose pleasure in working with her and in working together is evident. When inspired, she is capable of splendid solos. She knows to avoid set pieces when the music is finding its way. Audiences react to those qualities. All of that came to mind after someone sent me a link to a performance by Ms. Krall and her quartet at the 2010 Montreux Jazz Festival. Her band for the occasion was Anthony Wilson, guitar; Robert Hurst, bass; and Karriem Riggins, drums. As the concert proceeded, the band got tighter rhythmically and by the time they reached “Cheek To Cheek” about three-quarters of the way through, they achieved a riveting degree of cohesion.
Fair warning: If you decide to watch directly on You Tube rather than here on the Rifftides screen, the video of the concert features commercial breaks randomly inserted with no regard for what’s happening in the music. The viewer has the option of bailing out of each commercial after a few seconds. The production technique is irritating, but it’s the price for seeing an otherwise free performance. Either way, there is an opening airplane montage that must have something to do with something.
Have a good weekend.