A surprise mix of blues and pop songs by contemporary songwriters made up the bulk of a recent show at Yoshi’s, a favorite Bay Area jazz spot.
Krall hasn’t played such a small club in years, but the intimate setting was the perfect place to test run the new material. She was heading into the recording studio just two days later.
Krall covered songs by Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, Mose Allison and, yes, Elvis Costello. It’s a significant departure from the standards that have long been her staple.
Dressed casually in a leather coat and blue jeans, Krall was relaxed and friendly during the 70-minute show despite expressing some nervousness about the impending recording date. When a few people cheered at the mention of a Waits song, Krall quipped "You haven’t heard it, yet Optimists."
The pianist also launched into a instrumental version of "Happy Birthday" for the great bassist Christian McBride. No matter the material, Krall continues to surround herself with the best musicians. Guitarist Anthony Wilson and drummer Peter Erskine rounded out the quartet. "They’ve been kicking my ass all over the bandstand," Krall said.
One of the highlights of the evening was hearing her distinct, smoky voice wrap itself around the torchy "Almost Blue," a "song by Elvis Costello," she said afterwards, giving the audience a coy smile. It was the only mention of her fiance, who slipped into a booth moments before the show began.
Krall revealed her new range early on with an impressive rendition of Raitt’s "Love Me Like a Man." She also offered a few familiar tunes "All or Nothing At All" and "Devil May Care."
The biggest reaction, however, came during a rollicking version of Allison’s "Your Mind is on Vacation." The usually restrained Krall cut loose on the bluesy number, expertly delivering the punch line " but your mouth is working overtime" with a blend of style and humor.
This is a bold step for Krall, who has been so closely associated with songs by Nat King Cole and other founders of the Great American Songbook. Some jazz fans will likely take exception to the new material, but why shouldn’t Krall stretch her wings?
Nina Simone effectively melded folk and jazz. More recently, Cassandra Wilson has proven that she can bring together the best elements of blues, pop and jazz.
On this fair evening, it was Krall’s turn to show her expanding repertoire, and the audience approved.