Having played Hollywood Bowl many times since the late 1990s, Diana Krall knew exactly what to do Friday night. She slipped cooly and neatly into her niche – mostly standards and a few bossa novas – mixing it up a bit with her expert jazz quartet and sailing over the smooth surface of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, satisfying the affluent, wining, dining customers who have made her a popular returning attraction here.
Business as usual? Yes, for the most part, although there were a handful of diversions in her 85-minute set that helped relieve the sameness of the glossy surface.
Krall roamed throughout her catalog of Verve recordings for material while curiously not mentioning, nor previewing any material from, her upcoming album of `20s and `30s songs, “Glad Rag Doll” (to be released Oct. 2). She is a much more confident performer now than when she started to hit the big time, her voice still low-pitched and grainy in texture yet freer in phrasing, her piano work sure-footed and quote-filled.
Featured most prominently were songs from Krall’s latest release, “Quiet Nights” (2009), a collection of bossa novas and standards translated into bossa nova a la the Sinatra-Jobim collaborations of the 1960s. To my ears, Krall’s vocal renditions of “Corcovado” and “So Nice” sounded rather perfunctory, but her piano work was appropriately succinct and to-the-point as her conductor and onetime mentor Alan Broadbent presided over Claus Ogerman’s sleek charts.
Krall indulged in some autobiography – her childhood in Nanaimo, British Columbia growing up with her father’s hoard of 78 RPM records, with a bit of campy silent-movie piano thrown in. She then parlayed that into some passable Fats Waller-style stride which led to a mainstream-styled “`Deed I Do” and a dandy bop turn from her regular guitarist Anthony Wilson.
Interestingly, the song that seemed most suited to Krall’s timbre and phrasing was a nice, dirge-like solo rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Simple Twist Of Fate” (her contribution to an Amnesty International album of Dylan songs released in January). Toward the end of the set, a rapid-fire “Cheek To Cheek” passed through several phases until it unexpectedly arrived upon a pounding, faithful cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together.” “Just havin’ a little fun,” Krall shrugged – yet it got the most enthusiastic response of the night, an indication that Krall should lead her loyal audience into more stream-of consciousness fun like that.
As a prelude, Broadbent led the Philharmonic in a short set of arrangements of his early piece, “The Children of Lima,” and jazz standards like “Milestones” and “My Little Suede Shoes.” He called the latter, “Charlie Parker meets Leroy Anderson,” but the style was more like that of those gimmicky “Persuasive (or Provocative) Percussion” albums circa 1960.