- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Diana Krall wears her anachronistic ways as well as she does the unofficial title as jazz's next standard bearer.
The Grammy Award-winning artist brought her affection for jazz-pop chestnuts to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Sunday for the first of three sold-out shows. Miss Krall and her talented trio provided nearly two hours of throwback songs and tributes to composers no longer with us.
The evening's only blemish in taste and to find one takes some doing may have been her ripe decolletage, which forced her to cover her heart with her hand for modesty's sake during numerous bows.
Striking in a black pantsuit, Miss Krall, 37, showed that her justly lauded voice can be overshadowed by her virtuoso piano playing. With her head sunk into her shoulders, her arresting visage cloaked by a mass of hair, she played as if perpetually lost in the music's reverie.
The Concert Hall, though somewhat sterile, nonetheless provided a gorgeous acoustical bed for the performance. Each of Miss Krall's measured inhalations came through as if she had whispered the notes in the audience's collective ear.
Her enormously gifted backup trio, guitarist Anthony Wilson, John Clayton on bass and drummer Jeff Hamilton, provided as able a support system as any crooner could desire.
In kind, Miss Krall proved generous with her praise, routinely yielding the spotlight while snapping her fingers to their irresistible rhythms.
Her wondrous voice bore not a hint of road fatigue. She cannot reach the higher notes some peers might, nor should she.
Her limited range forces her to be more imaginative with her phrasing.
She broke down "The Look of Love" to a husky whisper, then plastered "Cry Me a River" with a bittersweet sheen. "I've Got You Under My Skin" became almost a spoken-word sprawl, so slowly did she deconstruct its melodies. Every phrase had her undivided attention.
Self-effacing to a fault, she mocked her own musical tastes, crying "nerd alert" when she acknowledged owning Peggy Lee's 1955 "Pete Kelly's Blues" on laserdisc.
She even cracks wise with alacrity.
Watching Miss Krall in the expansive Concert Hall makes one wish the walls would collapse upon themselves, converting the venue into an intimate nightclub. Such is the price she makes audiences pay for transforming jazz into a chart-topping affair.
The musician's reverence for the American songbook may border on obsession, but she posits her testimonials with an utter lack of postmodern irony. Otherwise, that obsession might appear as a marketing gimmick on which to anchor a career.


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