Diana Krall sounds like she spent much of her youth hiding in the smokehouse.
Her voice, otherwise smooth and lyrical, has a dose of charcoal thrown in that makes it unique - and very interesting to listen to.At the Salt Lake Hilton Tuesday, Krall, with guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Ben Wolfe, gave the capacity crowd what it expected: a set of 17 standards - "You're Getting to be a Habit With Me," "Frim Fram Sauce," "East of the Sun" - each with Krall's peculiar and recognizable spin.
That spin has made Krall the hottest vocalist (not to mention a well-regarded pianist) in jazz today, with two top-selling CDs and two Grammy nominations.
She makes her singing sound easy, like she just opens her mouth and out it comes. She sings softly, with the microphone turned up high, resulting in a very intimate sound, like you were sitting in a booth with her sharing a Kentucky sour.
The performance was understated and tasty - tight, rehearsed licks (sometimes with the instruments echoing each other) and contained, crisp solos.
Krall doesn't waste much energy generating a stage presence, letting the music carry the day instead. Her sidemen, however, both physically burly compared to her delicate features, were clearly having fun interacting with each other and the audience.
Wolfe, for example, was doing an impressive solo riff during "Route 66" that prompted applause. "It's not that hard," he said. Then, still playing the same riff, "I can't think of nothing (to play)."
Malone threw in snatches of other songs and even sound effects (such as a cork popping during "Peel Me a Grape"). In a solo during the Fats Waller tune "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," he imitated a banjo and still managed to eke out an impressive solo line that brought loud applause.
Krall's celebrated voice sometimes overshadows her piano playing, which ranges from elegant to mischevious. She was equally adept at playing short chords to accompany her own voice or a sideman solo, blazing up and down the keyboard in a solo line, or playing rapid, full chords.