Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On DVD: "Diana Krall: Live In Rio"

I’m a pretty casual Diana Krall fan; I’ve got a couple of her records, I always enjoy her mellow arrangements and smoky voice when one of her songs comes up during a shuffle on my iPod, and that’s about it. But her new concert disc Diana Krall: Live in Rio is just plain enchanting. Filmed last November and featuring much of the same talent and music assembled for her recent bossa nova-flavored Quiet Nights album, Live in Rio has the same warm, mellow, at-home vibe that I so admired on last year’s Live from Jazz at Lincoln Center DVD (featuring Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson).

The program begins with a brief series of Rio de Janeiro beauty shots (which are occasionally, awkwardly cut into the concert as well) before settling on Krall and her band on stage in front of a packed house at Vivo Rio, where they smoothly run through eighteen songs, most of them jazz and pop standards given a (sometimes barely perceptible) regional flavor. Krall takes the vocals and piano, and for backing, she has a terrific quartet—John Clayton on acoustic bass, Jeff Hamilton on drums, Anthony Wilson on guitar, and Paulinho DeCosta on percussion—with the Rio De Janeiro Orchestra (conducted by Ruria Duprat) adding the lushness of Claus Ogerman’s arrangements. All are splendid, while Krall’s playing is excellent and her silky voice is in fine form. I’ve never really understood the folks (and there are plenty of them) who dislike Krall’s voice; I find her vocals to be soulful and understated, with the lived-in quality of the best jazz songstresses.

The video recording of this particular performance is a fairly standard affair; there’s not much that a director and editor can do in a live concert film that’s terribly unexpected, but director David Barnard manages to put his cameras in the right places and assemble it into a smooth, professional package. He smartly keeps a camera tightly trained on Krall throughout, so that he can catch some of her smaller touches in performance (my favorite was her longing little sigh leading into the bridge of “Let’s Fall In Love”). She also has some nice audience byplay; when a fan shouts “I love you,” she replies, “Oh, I’m difficult, but I thank you” without missing a beat.

But the music is just wonderful. “I Love Being Here With You” is a marvelous, toe-tapping opener, and their rendition of “I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face” is absolutely lovely. Her stirring cover of “Walk on By” is a highlight, as is their spirited, fast-tempo “Cheek to Cheek.” Her take on “You’re My Thrill” is moody, atmospheric, and a little dark. “So Nice” (with some expert ivory-tinkling by Krall) is a definite crowd-pleaser, but the audience goes absolutely nuts when she (ably) sings “Este Seu Olhar” in their native tongue. Her version of “I Don’t Know Enough About You” proves a rousing closer (pre-encore, of course), while “S’Wonderful” is warm and bewitching.

The less-than-stellar video quality prevents this reviewer from giving Diana Krall: Live in Rio one of our higher recommendations, but it’s still absolutely worth picking up; the show itself is marvelous and the concert audio is reference-quality. Like a good jazz album, it’s the kind of disc that can be re-spun again and again, either as background or a mellowing foreground.

"Diana Krall: Live In Rio" is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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