Review: Diana Krall fights off illness in varied Heinz Hall show

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For a brief moment it was the 1920s all over again.

That was the mood that pianist-vocalist Diana Krall was trying to evoke Tuesday night at Heinz Hall with her "Glad Rag Doll" show, named for the album she released last year. She used two pianos -- a grand with a grainy texture for ensemble pieces and an upright for her solo numbers

I credit her, however, for trying to do something different from the straight jazz that she's known for. Sonically, she changed things up considerably, adding a touch of blues, country and even a couple of Tom Waits songs that certainly don't belong to the standard jazz catalogue.

Even the instrumentation strayed from the jazz realm, guitarist Aram Bajakian using a Telecaster and rocking out at times, Stuart Duncan trading off between violin, guitar and banjo and keyboardist Patrick Warren once picking up an accordion.

With all that being said, it's a good thing that fans have always received Mr. Krall's records pretty well. She doesn't exude much stage presence, and on Tuesday she was hampered by an apparently lingering illness that robbed her voice of vitality for most of the evening, with the exception on fellow Canadian Neil Young's "Heart of Gold."

The best part of the show was Mr. Bajakian's Wes Montgomery-style solo on "How Deep is the Ocean," though the songs "Lonely Avenue" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" deftly captured the spirit of the blues and Mr. Duncan shined on violin throughout. As an encore she and the band did "Prairie Lullaby," Ms. Krall on piano adding a line from the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross."

On most numbers black-and-white short films from that era were projected behind the band, perhaps to lend authenticity. They worked on "When the Curtain Goes Down," featuring an actor who recalled "Phantom of the Opera" seeming to lip-synch Ms. Krall's vocals; and "Glad Rag Doll," which depicted a number of performers with the Ziegfeld Follies. Other than those, I generally found the films distracting.

Moreover, I think drummer Karriem Riggins may have been asked to do too much, and bassist Dennis Crouch was virtually inaudible.

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Rick Nowlin: rnowlin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3871.


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