When you hear Diana Krall sing, her breathy voice makes lyrics like, "Someone to hold me tight, that would be very nice" sound like a personal invitation. If you close your eyes, it feels like she's serenading you, and you alone. Talk about personal connections. Listening to the crowd's appreciative but respectful applause and cheers as she started playing "So Nice" on the piano, it seems a lot of Krall fans feel the same way. Watching her up close in this two-disc Diana Krall: Live in Rio: Special Edition is a different experience, though. Every once in a while, as I watched Krall's intense performance, her face contorting with the music as she sang and played piano, I felt that her love might not be for the fans or even her husband, rocker Elvis Costello (even though she dedicates "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face" to him), but for the music itself. Songs like "Let's Fall in Love" and "Too Marvelous for Words" look like love letters to the jazz and standards she plays.
Pianist/vocalist Diana Krall pays tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio on her Impulse! set. In general, the medium and up-tempo tunes work best, particularly such hot ditties as "I'm an Errand Girl for Rhythm," "Frim Fram Sauce," and "Hit That Jive Jack." Krall does not attempt to directly copy Cole much (either pianistically or vocally), although his influence is obviously felt on some of the songs. The slow ballads are actually as reminiscent of Shirley Horn as Cole, particularly the somber "I'm Through With Love" and "If I Had You." Guitarist Russell Malone gets some solo space on many of the songs and joins in on the group vocal of "Hit That Jive Jack," although it is surprising that he had no other opportunities to interact vocally with Krall; a duet could have been delightful. Bassist Paul Keller is fine in support, pianist Benny Green backs Krall's vocal on "If I Had You," and percussionist Steve Kroon is added on one song. Overall, this is a tasteful effort that succeeds.