..

DIANA KRALL:  LIVE IN PARIS

Review by Mark Wiechman

DIANA KRALL: Vocals and Piano
John Clayton: Acoustic Bass
Jeff Hamilton: Drums
Paulinho DaCosta: Percussion
John Pisano: Acoustic Guitar
Anthony Wilson: Electric Guitar
Alan Broadbent: Music Director/Conductor
Orchestre Symphonique European &Paris Jazz Big Band
Claus Ogerman: Guest Conductor

Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1, DVD 9 Dual Layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Studio: Eagle Eye Media  (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Features:  See Review
Length:  130 Minutes
Release Date:  April 2, 2002

Program ***1/2

Jazz is the one artistic contribution to the world in which America has never been equaled, so it is ironic that the best Jazz DVD I have seen features a Canadian performing in Paris!  

Jazz in general is much more enjoyable in live settings than studio recordings, and this excellent Paris concert is no exception.  Diana Krall, a Canadian singer and pianist, is today the most popular jazz artist in the world.  Like Harry Connick Jr., she sings and plays jazz piano in a modern style which is viruostic without being pretentious.  It is just good music, which is easy to listen to but can also be considered “real” jazz.  She takes long forgotten standards and brings them back to life.  This is her specialty, not composing as Mr. Connick thinks he can do.  Oh yeah, and she is incredibly beautiful, with angular features, resembling that artsy chick we all knew in school who had no idea how pretty she was.

I have to admit that at first I did not admire Ms. Krall much as a vocalist, since she does not soar like Sarah Vaughn, and her voice is not overwhelming like Diane Schurr.  But then I went back to those singers, and realized that I much preferred Krall to Schurr, and frankly no one can do what Sarah could do.  Interestingly, Krall sounds as good as or better than her recordings.  Her pitch does not stray and she is relaxed and confident.  I guess she should be considering she has done this since she was a teenager.

Her normal sidemen for studio recordings include Russell Malone on guitar and Christian McBride on bass, neither of whom are on this DVD but their substitutes are up to the task.  Her last two studio recordings have been somewhat disappointing to me since they include strings, which watered down her stereo recordings to the point where her excellent rhythm section might as well have been programmed on a synthesizer.  But this concert has her in the small combo mode and with the orchestra as well, and in this situation the strings are a nice supplement because you can still hear the band clearly.

Video ***1/2

Beautiful lighting, plenty of shots of all the different players, and some footage of Paris while the music plays, which normally I would dismiss as amateurish, but it works very well here because the music is so romantic.   The camera angles change frequently but not frenetically. If I were a jazz instructor I would recommend this to show the various instruments playing slow, fast, Latin, and tasteful “cocktail” jazz.  This is an excellent “date” DVD for music lovers, and you can even turn off your TV and enjoy it all almost as much.

Audio  ****

The 5.1 and DTS mixes are strong and clear, as I mentioned it is nice to be able to hear all of the instruments clearly, which is just not possible in stereo.   Being a bassist for almost twenty years I always listen for the big bottom and it is here.  The acoustic bass comes through clearly with tonal definition, the guitars are clear, the piano rings and the drummers’ brushes can be heard clearly.   One of the highlights is a German-bowed solo by Clayton on East of the Sun, a ballad I did not care for until I heard this version.

Musicians and listeners alike will learn to appreciate the gentle swinging of some tunes (Let’s Fall in Love) and the hard swing of others (I Love Being Here With You).  Drummers will learn a thing or two from Jeff Hamilton’s excellent technique.  Since when do they bother to even show the rhythm section?  This one definitely deserves it, there are many good camera shots of Diana’s hands when she solos, then switching back to her face when she sings, which helps dispel the stupid myth which claims she is only popular because she is attractive.  Hey, that piano does not play itself!!! 

Features  **1/2

There are two gorgeous videos, The Look of Love and Let’s Face the Music and Dance.  The first shows Diana singing as a young man hangs a canvas on a building, the second shows her meandering around a dinner party.  Neither is mind-blowing but very welcome to anyone who does not have a video jazz channel (most of us).  There is also footage from a rehearsal which is interesting because it shows Ms. Krall working out sections with the conductor.    These are good features, but some interviews or such would have been nice.

Summary:

Diana Krall Live In Paris  is one of the best music DVDs in recent memory and will undoubtedly add to her legion of fans.