By: Stuart Nulman – mtltimes.ca
Since she made her debut at the Montreal International Jazz Festival back in 1995, B.C.-born Diana Krall effectively skyrocketed her career to become one of the best-known jazz pianists in the world. And her smoky, sensual voice added to her piano playing talents helped Krall to sell millions of albums as well.
And nearly 20 years since that career-making debut, Krall has returned to the jazz festival to thank her Montreal fans in a large-scale manner.
Last Sunday night (June 29), more than 100,000 people – including Mayor Denis Coderre, provincial Minister Responsible for the Montreal Region Robert Poeti and federal minister Maxime Bernier — crammed into the Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles in downtown Montreal to be treated to a free concert by Krall, as part of her Glad Rag Doll tour, which was part of the festival’s annual Grand Evenement TD.
Krall, along with her quintet of fellow musicians, delivered a memorable 90 minute show with a repertoire that represented 90 years of music, from Tin Pan Alley, to Neil Young, to Bob Dylan, to her own catalogue of jazz tunes. The stage was made to resemble a 1920s Prohibition era saloon (complete with an antique upright piano), and through most of the numbers, a selection of film clips from the silent and early sound eras were played on a giant screen behind Krall that lent itself to the ambience of each song (my personal favorite was when she played “Everything’s Made For Love”, which was accompanied by a scene from the Marx Brothers’ 1930 comedy “Animal Crackers”, which featured Groucho Marx and leading lady Margaret Dumont). And it was an excellent showcase for her extraordinary talents behind the keyboard, as she can adapt to any style of piano playing, which certainly had the massive crowd cheering loudly (especially how she echoed the piano patter of the late Fats Waller when she played one of his standards from the late 1920s).
And as an extra bonus to the crowd, for the encore, she was joined by her just as famous husband Elvis Costello, as they performed three numbers together to bring the concert to its satisfying conclusion.
And speaking of Elvis Costello, he entertained a full house at the Maison Symphonique two hours earlier with his solo show. Surrounded by seven acoustic and electric guitars, which he alternated every second or third number, Costello – decked out in a black suit and white Stetson hat – amazed the audience with his flawless guitar playing, as he performed 35 years worth of songs from his catalogue (such as “Watching the Detectives”, “Alison” and “Everyday I Write the Book”, in which for the latter song, he said that it took him only 10 minutes to write), as well as ballads and cover tunes (including his rendition of the Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”).
Also, Costello proved that he is quite the entertaining storyteller, as he regaled the crowd with anecdotes from his more than 40 years in the music business, including one of his first live gigs, in which he performed with his father (who was a well-known dance band vocalist) in the English seaside resort town of Blackpool (“it’s like Vegas without the sin,” quipped Costello).
Halfway through the show, Costello was presented with this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award by jazz festival co-founder and artistic director Andre Menard, who recognized Costello for being “one of the most diversified talents in music today.”
All in all, it was a night to remember at the jazz festival.