Judge Jim Thomas' wife will never leave him alone with Diana Krall again.
Sultry Music in a Sultry City.
My wife left today for a two-week workshop out of town. Our daughter's packed off to camp, leaving me to deal with our three- and five-year-old boys, a task only slightly less exhausting than wrestling a tornado. Fortunately, I have a secret weapon, for I know that once I get the boys duct-taped, er, tucked into bed, I can sit back and listen to Eagle Rock's Diana Krall: Live in Rio and let the sultry sounds of the bossa nova smooth my furrowed brow.
I'm begging you, Diana, don't blow this.
A quick intro to Diana Krall for those of you who aren't familiar with her work. While it was her piano chops that caught the ears of Jeff Hamilton, along with bass great Ray Brown, who more or less discovered Krall playing at a restaurant in her hometown of Nanaimo, British Columbia, back in the mid 1980s, it was when she added her sultry voice to the mix that her career really took off. She has a basic jazz band, featuring John Clayton on bass, Jeff Hamilton on drums, Anthony Wilson on guitar, and Paulinho DiCosta on percussion. For this concert, filmed on November 1, 2008, the group is backed by the Rio de Janiero Orchestra.
The playlist is scattered through with a good assortment of her earlier stuff.
* This track is on the Quiet Nights CD.
Krall has a wonderful contralto voice, well-suited for the bossa nova, and she is really good on the piano. The concert is in support of Krall's latest album, Quiet Nights, a collection of bossa nova standards and traditional jazz standards done in the bossa nova style. A concert of nothing but bossa nova would be pushing it, as it's a slow, laid back style, but there's enough of her earlier stuff to provide a sense of balance.
The biggest danger in doing standards is that you're competing against everyone who's performed the song before you. Krall isn't one to back down from a challenge; hell, she does songs previously covered by Sinatra. For the most part, Krall does a good job imbuing each song with her own special vibe—there's a light, playful feel to "Cheek to Cheek" and "I Don't Know Enough About You," for instance. The only possible exception is "Walk on By." It's lovely and soulful, but for some reason I keep hearing Dionne Warwick's iconic version in the background.
The concert has a couple of magical moments, first in "Este Seu Olhar" (I took Spanish, not Portuguese, but my best shot at a translation is "That Look of Yours" or "The Look in Your Eye."), a classic bossa nova song which Krall sings in Portuguese, then gets the audience to sing. Krall then sings one of the most famous of bossa novas, "The Boy from Ipanema"—this time in English, but she then gets the audience to sing a verse in Portuguese. Part of what makes these moments so special is that Krall is clearly moved by the way the audience embraces the experience.
A special thumbs up to the director and cinematographer. They had a great multi-camera set up, providing not only the usual shots—tight shots of Krall's hands on the keyboard, for instance—but also tight shots on the other players, shots of Krall reacting to other band members' solos, etc. The camerawork fosters a sense of intimacy that's often hard to manage.
Sound? S'wonderful. Eagle Rock does not mess around when it comes to music. You get Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 tracks, along with a DTS track. The 2.0 track is good, but you really want to go with the 5.1 or DTS. I am rapidly falling into serious geek love for Eagle Rock's DTS tracks; they fill the room with a rich warm sound, whether it's just the core quintet or the full orchestra. At times you get the impression that Krall may have been miked a little too closely; particularly on the slower songs, sibilants are very pronounced. Video is clear and sharp, with no noticeable compression artifacts. There are two extras: A 20-minute featurette, "Conversations," gives an overview of Krall's early career—pretty standard stuff. (Note: While the disc is listed as having subtitles in English, French, and Spanish, those subtitles are only present in "Conversations," which kind of sucks, because I wouldn't have minded translations of the Portuguese.) The second is a music video for "The Boy from Ipanema."
While not as outstanding as her previous concert DVD, Live in Paris, Diana Krall: Live in Rio is a solid addition to Krall's growing body of work.
P.S. The boys got to sleep just fine. Thank you, Diana.
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