Monday Smiles – 4/7/2014
I’m going to start today’s post with a question. Can you be both disappointed and enthralled by a single event? I assure you, you can … or at least I can. On Friday, I posted about going to see my favorite jazz vocalist, Diana Krall, on Saturday night. During the week, I noticed the concert was part of her Glad Rag Doll Tour, titled after her 2013 album. I went to check the album out on Amazon and listened to a few track excerpts. Quite different, to say the least. Different band (acoustic bass, guitar, mini-drum set, fiddle (really) and an additional keyboard). Very different sound, too. I’d have called it vaguely honky-tonk with a bit of a country sound. The album is produced by T-Bone Burnett, who was once Bob Dylan’s manager. He’s also produced a countryish album featuring Allyson Kraus and Robert Plant (how’s that for an unexpected combination?). The musical selections on Glad Rag Doll are actually selected from Krall’s father’s collection of 78 rpm records and best described as Burlesque or Vaudeville. Rick Busciglio of the Examiner said of the musical selections, If any of these songs could be identified as “20’s or 30’s music,” then they are 20’s or 30’s songs as imagined for the 21st Century. I wasn’t overly taken by the cuts on Amazon and went to the concert hoping she’d at least mix in some of the sultry standards I love. Didn’t happen.
However, it was a very interesting … even excellent … show once I walked past my disappointment and started to listen with an open mind. The band was amazing, particularly the guitarist (Aram Bajakian) and fiddler (Stuart Duncan), and live, the songs worked better than online. Of course, there’s nothing like live. She did about an hour with the band, then sent off the band and did maybe 20 minutes solo at an old upright piano instead of the grand. Absolutely amazing. Her voice is even better in person than on recordings. What was great is that she did a wide variety of stuff … a Fats Waller Tune, a Bob Dylan (Simple Twist of Fate) and a really rockin’ Tom Waits song (Temptation). Prairie Lullaby and Like a Butterfly in the Rain were quiet and beautiful. She did a Neil Young medley (Every Man Needs a Maid – Heart of Gold) that was off-the-charts incredible. The band then came back for about another half hour and a two-song encore, all in all, two hours with no intermission. The stage was set up in a Burlesque style and scenes from old 20s and 30s movies were playing on a screen behind the stage during each number. She also did the title song of the album, Glad Rag Doll, in memory of the Zeigfield girls, many of whom she said had very unhappy lives in spite of their stardom. Very touching. This interview of Diana Krall and T-Bone Burnett by Krall’s husband, Elvis Costello talks about the making of the record and includes some musical excerpts**.
So, after initial disappointment, I loved the show. I had the sense that I was seeing something really original, a new side to her work. A lot of people on Amazon are dumping on the recording, wanting the old Diana. I’m a lot more open minded today, and I can, of course, hear the old Diana any time I want. She is really amazing. I bought Glad Rag Doll on Sunday … and it wasn’t just for the cover.
And it’s Monday … I’m smiling.
** I originally included several concert videos but it occurred to me they were illegally made, so I deleted them and added the interview.