It may not have been the question foremost on everyone’s mind at Diana Krall’s concert on Wednesday night, but it was on mine: Would Howard Coward show?
“Howard Coward” is the pseudonym used by Krall’s husband, Elvis Costello, for contributions he made to her most recent CD, “Glad Rag Doll.” But Costello’s name only came up when Krall threw things open for song requests.
Along with calls for half a dozen Krall classics and a Joni Mitchell tune or two, some joker asked for “Watching the Detectives.”
Krall was quick on the mark: “Do you think anyone at my husband’s concert would be shouting out ‘Peel Me a Grape’?”
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With that, she sat down and plinked out her signature tune from her 1997 album, “Love Scenes.” Most of her two-hour set drew on “Doll,” however, and the Paramount stage was tricked out to make the most of the album’s vintage-melody vibe. She had her dad’s gramophone on her left, a player piano on her right and five terrific musicians seated in between.
With “Doll,” Krall has gone from being a jazz-song preservationist of exquisite taste to a miner of the song archives in the manner of Ry Cooder. Her finds — forgotten tunes first sung by Ruth Etting, Bing Crosby, and other 1920s stars — couldn’t be more winning.
In performance, the nostalgia came with a multimedia twist. Each song was accompanied by its own film-clip, starting with an old George Jessel number called “When the Curtain Comes Down.” It featured Steve Buscemi, in carnival-barker mode, citing the quirks of fate (“Too soon the shadows they fall / And some day that curtain will fall”), before Krall’s hushed, husky vocals kicked in.
Krall was as much the comedienne as the chanteuse, declaring the ukulele to be “a sexy instrument” and explaining her new musical repertoire by joking that she’d grown up in the 1930s.
Newer songs spiced the mix, with Tom Waits’ “Temptation” proving a field day for guitarists Anthony Wilson and Stuart Duncan. Krall encored with covers of The Band’s “Ophelia” and Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower,” before putting an old 78 on the gramophone to serenade her happy audience as they headed out of the hall.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org