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Diana Krall embraces her jazz roots at Midland show and impromptu appearance at the Blue Room

Jazz pianist Diana Krall performs with bass player Dennis Crouch and drummer Karriem Riggins during Saturday evening’s concert at Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland.
Jazz pianist Diana Krall performs with bass player Dennis Crouch and drummer Karriem Riggins during Saturday evening’s concert at Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. Special to The Star

Diana Krall spent part of Friday evening sitting in with a Kansas City jazz band at the Blue Room. She raved about her experience at the jazz club and expressed admiration for Kansas City’s jazz history during Saturday’s concert for an audience of more than 1,000 at the Midland theater.

Playing with an ensemble led by locally based saxophonist Matt Otto might have reinvigorated Krall. She performed with far more enthusiasm and generosity of spirit than she displayed during a 2013 appearance at the same venue.

Krall and her five-piece backing band also emphasized her roots in jazz even though she’s touring in support of “Wallflower,” an album featuring lush interpretations of pop, rock and folk material. Much of Saturday’s concert resembled the straight-ahead jazz of her 1993 debut album, “Stepping Out.” She since has become renowned for a sophisticated brand of adult pop and for cultivated explorations of American roots music.

Krall opened the show with an unaccompanied solo piano statement that slyly referenced Kansas City jazz giant Jay McShann. Krall’s vast range as an instrumentalist was one of the show’s biggest revelations. She later played mainstream swing in the style of Oscar Peterson and modal jazz in the vein of Keith Jarrett and cavorted like New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair.

Her band was equally versatile. Guitarist Anthony Wilson and violinist Stuart Duncan often traded licks in the gypsy swing style of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Drummer Karriem Riggins added unexpected dashes of funk to standards that might otherwise have seemed moldy.

Each musician was given room to stretch out on a grimy reading of Tom Waits’ “Temptation” and nimble interpretations of “Deed I Do” and “Just You, Just Me.”

Six solo selections that allowed Krall to showcase her emotive voice and instrumental virtuosity were the most rewarding portion of the concert. An evocative version of “Southern Nights” acted as a tribute to the late Allen Toussaint. “A Case of You” revealed her affection for Joni Mitchell. Suggesting that “I’m here for you,” she fielded a shouted request for “Peel Me a Grape.”

Krall mentioned that she’d be reunited with her children on the following day. While her twin sons know Krall as their mother, members of Saturday’s audience recognize Krall as the woman who merits her status as one of the world’s most popular jazz musicians.

Set list

We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye; There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth the Salt of My Tears; Just Like a Butterfly That’s Caught in the Rain; On the Sunny Side of the Street; Let It Rain; So Nice; Corcovado; Temptation; More Than You Know; I Don’t Know Enough About You; Peel Me a Grape; A Case of You; Southern Nights; The Frim-Fram Sauce; California Dreamin’; If You Could Read My Mind; Just You, Just Me; ’Deed I Do; I’ll String Along With You; Wallflower; Exactly Like You; Ophelia.

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