Diana Krall, Mose Allison open summer series with cool night of jazz
June 22, 2011
Diana Krall left no note unsung or unplayed.
She sang soft and sultry. She covered the classics. She did the bossa nova. She played straight-ahead jazz. And she improvised.
More engaged with the audience than she was during a 2007 appearance at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys, Krall was on top of her game and she knew it. A diminutive but supportive crowd of 2,000 turned out June 18 for the opening night of the 11-concert summer series.
” ‘I Love Being Her with You,’ ” Krall said introducing the first song as she took the stage and a seat in front of a black Steinway piano. There is during the first song a special energy and enthusiasm shared between a headlining band and audience, and Krall fueled the ambiance by opening with the upbeat Peggy Lee tune.
During the first solos for the rhythm section and guitarist, Krall turned toward the photographers’ well and posed. The image-takers were only allowed to work the first song, but the artist was happy to cooperate for this show.
She wore a red scarf and her blond hair contrasted with her black jacket. She plays well the part of a star, looking cool even if she was a bit cold as temperatures lowered after sunset.
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The only thing that was not cool was the carnival behind the stage at the next-door casino. Organizers there politely turned off their music, but it was impossible to quell children’s screams from the Fireball ride, which came at regular intervals like waves crashing on a beach.
“That reminds me of my husband,” Krall joked, referring to Elvis Costello. “He’s on his own tour now.”
Before playing “Stop This World,” a song by Mose Allison who opened the concert, Krall told the audience, “You can scream too.”
Bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Carine Rickens set the groove for Krall, and guitarist Anthony Wilson strummed and picked as if he were Kenny Burrell.
Krall gazed south between songs and said, “That’s the biggest restroom sign I’ve ever seen. It makes me want to pee. I didn’t think I had to go.”
Krall whimsically revealed she played third clarinet when she attended MIT in Cambridge, Mass.
“It’s not easy to meet Harvard guys when you’re third clarinet,” she said before pretending to settle down. “I’m not going Joan Rivers here.”
Krall finished her 85-minute set the way she started, with a Peggy Lee song, an encore performance of “East of the Sun (And West of the Moon).”
For a lyricist so singularly witty and profound, Allison didn’t interact much with the audience. He let his music speak for him.
Wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and ball cap, the 83-year-old with a gray beard was obviously a bit chilly, blowing into his hands when he wasn’t hitting cool notes on the piano. He thanked the crowd after each number, and concluded a 12-song, 40-minute set, saying, “That’s about it for us. Thank you, and we’ll see you again sometime.”
I certainly hope Allison does return to Tahoe, but I couldn’t help but remember seeing the late Ruth Brown during one of her final performances on that same stage in 2003. Some obtuse spectators chattered during that one, too.
“Your mind is on vacation but your mouth is working overtime,” Allison sang, most appropriately.
The artist who straddles a line between jazz and blues has received the greatest of complements from his songwriting peers. His songs have been covered by Krall, Costello, the Clash, Leon Russell and Van Morrison. “Young Man Blues,” was a staple of the Who’s when they were on tour, and “Parchman Farm” was one of John Mayall’s most played radio tunes.
Allison stopped playing the latter song in the 1980s because it wasn’t politically correct. But he has a style and delivery to even draw a chuckle when listening to a story about a man serving a life sentence for murdering his wife.
His songs are existential, a social commentary and observations of his life. The Mississippi native has a degree in English and philosophy, and that sounds about right.
“Ever since the world has ended I don’t get out as much,” Allison sang strongly as the orange gloaming kissed the mountaintops still covered with snow.
A highlight in a show that had no lowlights was “Monsters of Id,” as relevant in today’s era of greed as it was in 1969 when Allison wrote it: “Monsters run amok, just trying to make a buck.”
Allison hummed and mumbled during his solos as he performed with the rhythm section. Before you knew it, he had collected his music sheets and walked from the stage, stopping briefly to smile and wave to the appreciative members in the crowd.