• Bourne's Montreal: Diana Krall And Me

    July 23, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    When Diana Krall first played the Montreal jazzfest 20 years ago, she was just getting started in her soon-to-be-skyrocketing career; she played a tribute to Nat Cole with Russell Malone on guitar, and Paul Keller on bass, in the bistro of the city's Comedy Museum, now long-closed.

    That gig was one of the swinging-est performances I've ever heard.  It's the concert I always remember first whenever I'm asked what have been my favorite musical moments through my  22 years at FIJM.

    Every few years since then, she's returned to Montreal — each gig at a bigger venue - and every time, I catch the show.

    This year, I got to reminisce with Diana during her Q&A with festival artistic director André Menard, which you can listen to here:

    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis
    Photo by Marie-Claire Denis

    When still a newcomer, Diana played a lovely concert at Theatre Maisonneuve. Tony Bennett was singing that evening at the biggest venue, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Mid-way through his show, Tony called Diana onto the stage, sat her at the piano, held the microphone for her to sing, and in that moment virtually anointed Diana as a new keeper of the standards flame.

    I was there that evening, and I’ve been there whenever she's played FIJM, including a show at the city's uncomfortably enormous hockey rink, the Bell Centre - where, as a surprise, her then-new husband Elvis Costello joined her onstage at the show’s climax.

    Andre Menard, the festival's co-founder and always astute artistic director, suggested that Diana play a show solo for FIJM 2011, so she created a tribute to her beloved mom and dad.

    krallALIXA600
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Along with showing home movies and early cartoons, she decorated the stage with personal artifacts, including her dad's crank-up Victrola, and played songs of the 20s and 30s, from her dad's sheet music collection, that she practised as a child.

    "I can still smell my dad's cigarette smoke," she said at the concert.   Soon thereafter, she evolved the show into what became a tour of the album Glad Rag Doll.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    For this year's mid-fest “grand event” or grand evenement, Diana bookended her tour for an audience of more than 100,000, mostly standing in the streets all around Place des Arts, with a group that included guitarist Marc Ribot and Karriem Riggins, the former drummer of her musical mentor, bassist Ray Brown.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Along with some of her favorite pop songs -- "Temptation" by Tom Waits, "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young, and several by Bob Dylan — she sang a deeply emotional "Let's Face The Music and Dance."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Husband Elvis Costello came on for the encores, which was inexorable, but not a surprise — he also played a solo concert, earlier that evening, at Montreal’s Symphony Hall. Having not seen each other, as both had been on tour, and with their twins away on a fishing trip, they actually flirted.

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

    Then they sang duets - climaxed by a faster-than-a-speeding-bullet breath-taker, Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

    Photo by Denis Alix
    Photo by Denis Alix

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