Although her music seems tailor-made for a formal night on the town, Diana Krall seemed to truly relish the casual summer ambience of Red Butte Garden.
There is no disputing the talent of Krall, the exceptional pianist with a voice like curry, combining small dashes of different spices to achieve the perfect blend. Nor is there any doubt about her skill as a performer, which has been proven during years of playing live, that began in her teenage years and well before she was a household name.
Thus, Krall came in her sold-out show at Red Butte Garden Friday night facing high expectations. They were expectations she met, and even exceeded.
From the opening bounce of "I Love Being Here With You," she established her stage presence by improvising lyrics that focused on her immediate surroundings, such as the mountains. The upbeat tempo, and jaunty singing, also served notice that she was not planning on a low-key show — in other words, she was not planning on drawing heavily from "Quiet Nights," her latest album that is exactly as the title suggested.
Instead, she stayed focused on bebop songs that gave the band a chance to spread their wings. On many of the songs, improvisation became the dominant element, with each of the four members taking a turn soloing.
The highlights of the show, primarily because of the extensive improvisation, were crowd favorites "I've Got You Under My Skin" and show closer, "East of the Sun (West of the Moon)." On both of those songs, the elements of great jazz song were present, from excellent musicianship to perfect collaboration.
Beyond the music, Krall proved a great perfomer because she also recognized the local environment. Her spartan stage set was accentuated very well by a perfectly lit tree behind the stage, and her on-stage chatter was conversational reactions to the crowd. Multiple times, in fact, her attention was drawn to babes in arms of a parent — a very natural reaction for the mother of two-year-old twins.
She also told a story, much to the crowd's delight, about going to a cafe in Salt Lake with her husband, Elvis Costello, and having somebody tell him he looked just like the brother of Elvis Costello.
In the end, it is those kinds of details that can push an artist from well-liked to incredibly popular, and in Krall's case seeing one show will likely convince most people to see another. Nobody will ever question he musicianship, but on Friday night the real treat was seeing her professionalism on stage.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org