A Music Lover’s Compulsion: listening notes on Diana Krall

diana-krall(At Chateau Ste Michelle Winery, Woodinville 8/30/09 by Bellamy Pailthorp: KPLU News)

I’m someone who likes to separate work and play. When I’m off the clock from my job as a news reporter at KPLU, I try not to think too much about covering the events of the day, unless there’s an obvious big breaking story. Everyone needs the chance to turn off the left side of the brain, relax, and recharge their batteries now and then — especially heading into the work week after a busy and eventful summer weekend.

Nonetheless, out came my notebook and a pen last Sunday night and I found myself taking detailed notes as I watched – and most of all listened to –Diana Krall performing on the last stop of her latest tour.

In case you somehow didn’t know, Krall is one of my generation’s most famous jazz pianists and vocalists. She’s the only artist I would trust to cover Joni Mitchell’s 1971 song “A Case of You” — and that song was a highlight of my evening. She was in Woodinville playing the picturesque Chateau Ste. Michelle winery – a venue where she’s appeared a few times over the past decade. I sat on the lawn with my date behind a group of people who were celebrating a birthday party. They were really nice, and I didn’t have to pay for my tickets, so I didn’t get too grumpy when I realized their furniture was rendering useless the binoculars I had rented for $5. Maybe I could have found a better spot on the hill, but it was too late to move. I don’t like craning my neck. So I decided to relax instead and concentrate on what I could hear.

Don’t get me wrong: Diana Krall is someone I’d love to watch for hours. I even purchased her latest DVD after the concert. It’s hard not to wonder what that stunning blonde with the quirky deep voice actually looks like in person on stage. But live outdoor performance includes more than visual stimulation – it’s about experiencing a unique moment in time and sharing it with people around you. Despite not actually seeing much of her show, four days later I’m still relishing memories of what I heard – and of how often Krall’s comments and interaction with the audience made me laugh.

Many people in the crowd had been there for a while tasting wine before the show – it’s a great place to have a picnic and you can bring your own everything (excluding cameras)…so I think it’s safe to assume the most vocal people in the crowd had tied a few on by the time Krall started singing, a little after 8pm. During a break after the third song, she turned to the audience and introduced her trio (Anthony Wilson on guitar, Robert Hurst on bass, Jeff Hamilton on drums.) Then she greeted everyone there as if they were friends she hadn’t seen in while.

“How’ve you been?” she asked as the sun was setting in a picture perfect clear blue sky, complete with brightly colored hot air balloons circling overhead. “The weather’s been good, aye?”

She told us how much she loved this corner of the continent (she’s from Nanaimo, BC, which at one point she described as “just up the street” from Woodinville, eliciting lots of laughs). She added that the end of summer is her favorite time of year. Then someone I couldn’t hear, in the expensive seats up close, seemed to have yelled out a question. Krall, who gave birth to twins three ago in December (12/6/06,) responded with as much mischievous soul as she plays the piano.

“How are my boys?!” They’re good, thanks for asking,” she replied. “They’re back at the hotel smoking cigars and playing gin rummy.”

Someone else yelled something and she said: “How’s Elvis?” (That would be Elvis Costello, her husband of six years, who was also touring this summer and played the winery just a week earlier.) She said she didn’t know; she wasn’t even sure where he was that night: “I think he’s in Austin?” she guessed, adding, “I have a picture of him in my dressing room with lipstick kisses all over it – most of them are mine.” And she said something about throwing lingerie on stage at him when she heard him play earlier this summer. As much fun as she’s been having on tour, she was happy that this was the last night.

Later in the concert, (I think it was after she sang “Walk on By” by composer Burt Bacharach, who she called “a great person with fabulous hair” and said she thinks he’s as great as Gershwin,) she mentioned that her twins had started talking recently. That’s been great, she said, but it’s meant not getting a lot of sleep at night, especially in the wee hours – and for different reasons than at other points in her life. Someone yelled out another question and somehow, the subject again turned to lingerie: would she please toss some of hers into the crowd? She said she would if she could, but she had run out on this long tour.

“Honey, I would, but, I’m a mother of twins now. We’re all up here performing without underwear.”

I’m guessing the band members were all blushing. That’s the image that remains in my mind – even though I couldn’t actually see it.

[editor’s note: Diana Krall’s latest CD is Quiet Nights, her tour continues in Hamburg, Germany on Sept. 14th)

Diana Krall Live in Paris

0 Replies to “A Music Lover’s Compulsion: listening notes on Diana Krall”

  1. Nice, Bellamy! You captured the scene very well with your words alone. Especially the people talking which takes the experience down a notch or two. They just don’t get it that others came to listen.

    Isn’t Anthony Wilson great? I love his playing, and Diana’s throwaway comments. The stage disappears, you’re in her living room.


  2. Thanks Jim! I could go on for hours…a really nice touch at the beginning of the show: she very quickly doodled the tune of “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t got that Swing” before launching into the first tune, which I believe was East/West? I wondered, does she always add that little flourish? It’s a great mood-setter. Anyway — she’s such an amazing piano artist, on top of being such a compelling personality. As for your other point: I agree that many people don’t get it that some of us are there to listen, especially in outdoor settings, but I must say the crowd was amazingly attentive and quiet once Krall took the stage. Less so for the the opening trio — but, once she started playing, at least in my corner of the lawn, the cliche of the wonderful Seattle-area audience proved so true! I can forgive us for being overly generous with our standing ovations when I remember how lucky we are to have such attention, and even when folks are a little tipsy. And if, like me, you couldn’t see much of the stage, on that particular night, you could just sit back or even lie down and stargaze while listening. The moon rose and I think on the horizon I saw venus shinging very brightly! 🙂 Again: all in all a wonderful night, a repeat of which I would wholeheartedly recommend…except I don’t think anyone recorded it except in words, like me. Or?

  3. Bellamy,
    I agree, Diana Krall was “on” that night in a unique, subtle, and friendly diana krall kinda way. Her playing was superb and sublime and in such a wonderful setting. My wife and I have seen her 6 times in the northwest and once at jazz fest in new orleans, and 8/30/09 at CSM was her best performance that we have witnessed. BYW, I was in the fifth row and diana added to not wearing underwear comments and I paraphrase, “we (the band) are all going green, el’ natural” which the crowd appreciated with laughter. One can listen to all the jazz they want online or via your ipod, but live jazz, such as diana’s playing on 8/30, is an entire experience unto itself. glen

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