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WEEKEND REVIEWS | Jazz Review

Krall, Bennett Put Their Stamps on American Classics

August 07, 2000|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Great American Songbook--a grand way to describe the astonishing body of popular songs largely composed in the brief decades between 1920 and 1960--is in safe hands with Diana Krall and Tony Bennett. Decades apart in age (Krall is 35, Bennett turned 74 the day before the concert), they are linked by a love for, and a deep understanding of, this extraordinary creative legacy.

Friday night at the Hollywood Bowl, in the first of two sold-out performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, each offered personal views of songs encompassing, among many others, "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Let's Fall in Love" and "Pick Yourself Up" (Krall) and "Over the Rainbow," "Speak Low" and "A Foggy Day" (Bennett). And what became vividly clear was the way in which this material can be molded and shaped by two utterly different artists, from different generations, with differing musical points of view.

The interpretations by Krall and Bennett were affected, to a considerable extent, by the opposite polarities of their careers. Bennett started as a pop artist who has moved closer to jazz over the years. Krall originally intended to become a jazz pianist (which she has done), but her recent work has revealed a growing fascination with the darker areas of pop music.

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There were other differences, as well. Despite her burgeoning popularity (her last album, "When I Look in Your Eyes" was nominated for Grammy album of the year and won the jazz vocal album award), she has not always been her best in a large amphitheater. This time, however, accompanied by her quartet and, in some numbers, by discreet orchestral textures (conducted by Alan Broadbent, Krall was as warmly communicative as she is in much smaller venues. Her insinuating, rhythmic sensuality was especially effective with "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "Let's Face the Music and Dance," and her penetrating rendering of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" held the packed Bowl in completely enraptured silence.

Bennett, ever the knowledgeable entertainer, knows exactly what to do in venues large or small. Accompanied by his longtime companions the Ralph Sharon Trio, with occasional orchestral arrangements conducted by Vincent Falcone, he sang with the spirited musical joy that has been ever present in his art. At his best in an understated version of "Speak Low," he was briskly swinging in a Duke Ellington medley and, bringing the crowd to its feet, sang "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" with a sense of discovery that made it sound as though he were delivering his classic hit for the very first time.

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