Hong Kong gigs

Review: Diana Krall brings a little sunshine to chilly Hong Kong

From sunny Brazilian tunes to the fringes of bluegrass and spanning the history of jazz, Canadian pianist warmed up her audience with a wide-ranging and at times deeply felt performance

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 January, 2016, 2:08pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 January, 2016, 4:40pm

Braving the elements to get to the venue on the coldest day in Hong Kong for 60 years, the crowd at AsiaWorld-Arena on Lantau gave Diana Krall and her musicians a warm welcome – even though they took the stage more than half an hour late.

Krall, who announced that she had flown in from Vancouver where it was warmer, seemed genuinely thrilled to be playing here again, and equally happy to be working with a sympathetic and versatile band capable of performing a range of music that extended from Brazilian bossa nova, through vintage pop, to the fringes of bluegrass, as well as taking in jazz from its earliest years through to the modern era.

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Her current ensemble is a sextet, completed by bassist Dennis Crouch, long time drummer Karriem Riggins, Patrick Warren on electronic keyboards, guitarist Anthony Wilson, and Stewart Duncan, on fiddle, slide guitar and occasional harmony vocals.

With no intermission, the set was divided into three sections – two groups of band performances bridged by an interlude in which she sang accompanied only by her own piano.

The singer chose to perform the hit song with which she is perhaps most strongly associated, The Look of Love, shorn of other instrumentation, as she did with what appeared to be a particularly deeply felt version of John Lennon’s In My Life, taken slowly, leaving room to let the lyric breathe.

This tour takes its name from her most recent album, Wallflower, but relatively few tunes from it were performed.

Of those, however, California Dreaming, a song that strands the singer in a church where “the preacher likes the cold”, missing the sun in Los Angeles, seemed particularly apt, and her choice of Brazilian tunes, including Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Quiet Nights (Corcovado) from her album of the same name, brought a little much appreciated sunshine into the room.

She remained seated at the piano throughout the show, frequently trading solos with Wilson and Duncan, the inclusion of whose fiddle in the arrangements tinged performances sometimes with Americana and at others with echoes of Hot Club de France-style 1930s swing.

As well as soloing effectively, Wilson provided the chords when Krall stopped playing the piano to focus on her vocals, with support from Warren, whose playing was subtly supportive although he generally stayed in the background. Crouch and Riggins also got their chances to shine, and kept the band swinging throughout.

Her own solos were for the most part short, to the point, and, as all good jazz is, in the moment. Like her first great influence, Nat King Cole, to whom she paid tribute, she remains at heart first and foremost a jazz pianist.

Ever the Canadian patriot, Krall chose to close the show with a rousing version of Robbie Robertson and The Band’s 1930s jazz-inspired song Ophelia before a thoroughly warmed up crowd embarked on the chilly walk back to the Airport Express.

Diana Krall, AsiaWorld-Expo. Reviewed: January 24