As night approached and the boiling temperature of the day cooled to a simmering 100 degrees, the air-conditioned oasis of the desert hotel was bubbling with heat of its own kind.
Though it is not uncommon to find Fantasy Springs Resort bustling with such liveliness on a Saturday night, the level of activity by far exceeded the normal rate. In fact, the hotel buffet housed a fifteen minute wait line, and the blueberries at the desserts bar ran out so fast that they had to be hand-ordered from the kitchen staff.
The cause of all (first-world) inconveniences was a performance by the two-time Grammy-winning jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall, scheduled for later that night.
The only artist to have eight albums that debuted at the top of the Billboard Jazz Albums, Krall is one of the best-selling jazz artists of her time. With her husky, sensual voice and skillful jazz technique, Krall manages to keep her listeners in a perpetual limbo between exhilaration and serenity.
The concert was held in the Special Event Center, a fairly small venue, which helped to create a jazz-at-the-bar, impromptu ambience and a more intimate connection between the audience and the performers. Ten past eight, Krall strolled across the stage in a high-necked maroon dress with a trio of musicians on the guitar (Anthony Wilson), drums (Karriem Riggins), and bass (Robert Hurst). The stage lights turned a brilliant blue as they opened the performance.
The first couple tunes were filled with drawn out, flamboyant solos by each of the artists. Jazz is never a planned jamboree, and often the musicians exchanged eye contact to signal the ending; sometimes it turned into a battle between the musicians of who can draw it out for the longest time. Eventually they chuckled, and gave into each other.
After the band’s rendition of So Nice, Krall addressed the audience directly.
“I don’t remember what I was going to play next,” she joked. Some of the rowdier members of the audience yelled requests at her.
“Oh I don’t like that one,” she replied with faked disgust, “If I don’t like it, you won’t like it either. I’m a lousy liar.”
Krall’s breezy personality can be seen not only in her music, but also in her speech and casual manner with which she carries herself on stage. An abundance of flies circled her as she performed and at one point, Krall rolled up her Look of Love sheet music and started to sing a verse from Blondie’s One Way or Another in the middle of a Nat King Cole song while swinging her DIY fly swatter.
“I need cymbals for these flies,” she remarked afterwards, “[they] must dig jazz.”
The versatile lighting set the mood for each song throughout the concert. When the quartet played Walk on By, the backdrop dimmed to black, revealing stars that glowed slowly in and out. Golden light jetted from the ceiling during Simple Twist of Fate, settling on Krall’s blonde hair and creating a crown-like shape against the darkness behind her.
The audience trickled out during the “last” song. As a reward for those who sat through until the band’s exit, Krall performed the long-anticipated Look of Love as her encore song.
Though her concert was not one to have an audience jumping up and down with their fists pumping in the air, it ignited a tangible appreciation for jazz music that leaves an oddly satiated feeling.