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MUSIC REVIEW

Krall invites her live audience to get closer

By James Reed
Globe Staff / June 15, 2009
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Sixteen years since her debut, Diana Krall has become a jazz chanteuse who, despite the husky warmth of her vocals, is often rather aloof on her recordings. She has nurtured a beguiling persona: You can look and listen and admire her from afar, but there's no touching. Half of her allure is the essence of what she does.

Krall breaks down some of that wall in a live setting, though, and Saturday night at the Bank of America Pavilion, with a breeze wafting over her and gray skies looming, Krall was as grounded and engaging as she gets.

She was feisty, even. Joking about her husband, British rocker Elvis Costello, she mentioned her next song was inspired by him. "Don't worry," she said, "I'm not going to play 'Pump It Up' as a bossa nova or anything." But then she did just that, for only a few seconds but long enough to imbue the show with welcome flashes of humor.

Later she talked about the first time she met the Obamas. Krall was effusive and emotional in her feelings for them, but she made the president seem more impressed with something else: "Your husband is Elvis Costello? Have you been keeping this under wraps?"

Krall gets a lot of attention for her voice - a sublime instrument that doesn't so much lead songs as it bleeds flawlessly into the arrangements - but her piano playing was as much of an attraction. Opening with Peggy Lee's "I Love Being Here With You," Krall swung right into the song, deftly keeping pace with the torrent of lyrics while her hands followed suit on the keys.

With a full orchestra behind Krall and her crack ensemble, which included guitarist Anthony Wilson, upright bassist Robert Hurst, and drummer Jeff Hamilton, nostalgia hung heavy in the air. Couples swooned to standards from a bygone era, arms wrapped around shoulders as Krall waxed romantic on "Do It Again" and "The Look of Love."

Krall was in an especially sentimental mood on "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face," "Walk on By," and "Quiet Nights," all from her new album of bossa novas. But a more contemporary song allowed her to dig deep into psychological anguish. A cover of fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" was an unvarnished gem of economy and grace, with Krall's voice evaporating into full-throated exhales.

From Buenos Aires, Federico Aubele and Natalia Clavier opened with threadbare love songs ranging from tangos to boleros. Fleshed out with just Aubele's acoustic guitar and Clavier on the occasional melodica solo, their set was as cool and crisp as Aubele's white suit.

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

DIANA KRALL With Federico Aubele and Natalia Clavier

At: Bank of America Pavilion, Saturday

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