Near the end of her classy Davies Symphony Hall gig in The City on Saturday, jazz’s first lady Diana Krall mentioned that she rarely performs songs by composers she has had the pleasure to meet. Then she proceeded with an evocative version of her husband Elvis Costello’s gorgeous, haunting “Almost Blue.”
It was one among many great moments in the more than two-hour concert, on her tour promoting “Turn Up the Quiet,” her new album of cool, catchy standards.
The Canadian star, going strong since the 1990s, really was having a great time playing a good number of tunes from the record with her simpatico group of virtuosos: guitarist Anthony Wilson, drummer Karriem Riggins, fiddler Stuart Duncan (on the album) and bassist Robert Hurst.
At one point, so engaged at the piano, she joked, “I almost forgot there’s a singer in the band.”
Her sultry, unforced alto sounds great on songs of all moods: bouncy, swinging, romantic, blue.
The show covered them all: She opened with the upbeat “’Deed I Do,” “LOVE,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street”; moved to the wistful “Isn’t It Romantic?” (she told a cute anecdote about her encounters with Bobby Short) and “Night and Day”; and then to moody, more contemporary tunes.
Krall accompanied herself on solo piano for Joni Mitchell’s bittersweet ballad “A Case of You,” a crowd pleaser, and the stage lights went dark on Tom Waits’ despairing “Temptation” — before the combo rocked out.
Krall’s favorite composer, Irving Berlin, was represented by a percussive “Blue Skies” and a slow, soulful version of “How Deep Is the Ocean.”
The pleasantly minimal visual design on the stage backdrop served up a moon for “Moonglow” (the theme from “Picnic”); and a female composer, Peggy Lee, got a shout out with the perky “I Don’t Know Enough About You.”
Interestingly, Krall wasn’t the only jazz great in town on Saturday: Trumpeter Terell Stafford (who has played with Krall, as has his bassist, John Clayton Jr.) and his band opened up a summer jazz series at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, playing their take on tunes by bop era composer-trumpeter Lee Morgan; the music’s on Stafford’s album “Brotherlee Love.”
The quintet, rounded out by saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Bruce Barth and drummer Billy Williams, smoked on “Hocus Focus,” “Speedball,” “Favor” and “Sidewinder,” and played a sublime, seductive “Candy.”