The Canadian jazz pianist, singer, and songwriter Diana Krall dropped by the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday, August 30, to deliver another one of her sweetly satisfying musical excursions through several decades and multiple genres of great popular music. Although she has a recent release called Wallflower that contains cover versions of many of the “superhits of the ’70s,” on this night Krall chose to ignore all but the title track from the recording in favor of a funky, eclectic mix that stretched from ragtime to classic rock and beyond.
Her sophisticated and capable band features drums, guitar, violin, bass, and some extra keyboards thrown in mostly for texture. Krall’s laidback but classy persona and quirky, off-the-cuff remarks between songs went a long way toward putting the audience at ease, and the strength of her voice and the fluid virtuosity of her piano playing took us the rest of the way. Highlights of the 16-song performance included an ethereal ballad culled from Krall’s father’s collection of 78 RPM recordings called “Just Like a Butterfly” and a lengthy improvisation on the Tom Waits number “Temptation” that offered plenty of room for both Krall and her bandmates to stretch out.
“Wallflower” was one of two Bob Dylan tunes in the second half of the set. The other, “Simple Twist of Fate,” is certainly more familiar to most listeners, and in Krall’s hands it opened up into a sumptuous jazzy suite. Two of Krall’s three encores paid tribute to her homeland. She began by taking Joni Mitchell’s romantic “A Case of You,” and finished up with a rocking full-band exploration of “Ophelia,” a Robbie Robertson composition recorded first by The Band.
Overall this was one of Krall’s stronger outings here. Seemingly unencumbered by the need to plug her newly recorded material, the talented musician let the music take her, and us, wherever it led.