From This Moment On
Diana Krall is a marketing executive's dream. She's an attractive woman with the vibe and laidback sound that appeal to a wide market sector. At the same time, her music isn't easy to pigeonhole.
The Canadian-born musician's latest release, From This Moment On, showcases Krall's understated panache, a quality best demonstrated on cuts like "It Could Happen to You" and "Isn't This A Lovely Day." The pianist and singer deftly sidesteps potentially saccharine overkill on several numbers, particularly "Willow Weep Me" on which she redeems her lyrics with the full potency of her husky vocals and enticingly weighted phrasing. The album is an alluring mix.
In pure artistic terms, however, this isn't the tour de force Krall is capable of. Some of her lower register work is overly ornate, and some of the songs stray toward the mundane.
These shortcomings notwithstanding, it's refreshing to listen to a jazz singer who avoids the affected attitude and performance style of so many of her fellow vocalists.
Half The Perfect World
Madeleine Peyroux has been labeled "the new Billie Holiday," and it isn't hard to see why - the singer's phrasing and seemingly laidback delivery style do resemble those of the legendary diva. Of course, that sort of tag can also set an impossibly high standard, and one wonders what Peyroux thinks of the comparison.
On Half The Perfect World Peyroux applies Holidayesque textures to a dozen numbers written and originally recorded by such rock, pop and folk titans as Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, with the odd jazz standard thrown in for good measure. Mitchell's "River" encapsulates Peyroux's philosophy: you know she isn't the first to perform the song, and you sense the respect she feels for the original. Further helping matters is the work of Canadian songstress K.D. Lang, who joins with Peyroux for the occasion.
Waits's "(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night" is delivered in breezy fashion with just a hint of smoke - sort of Waits-lite - and Peyroux's bossa nova rendition of the title track will have you reaching for your poolside cocktail. Then there's a sharp change of direction, at least in terms of arrangement, on a cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "La Javanaise" accompanied by nothing less than a string quartet.
It seems only natural to close out such an insouciant album with Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." Till Bronner's trumpet enhances the song's gossamer, happy-go-lucky effect with consummate delicacy.
DAVE VAN RONK
The Mayor of MacDougal Street
Rootstock Recordings/Multicultural Media
It might be stretching things to say that we have Bob Dylan thanks to Dave Von Ronk, but Van Ronk certainly had a profound impact on the then-novice troubadour when Dylan landed on the Greenwich Village scene in the early Sixties.
Van Ronk became a founding father of the 1960s folk and blues revivals with his larger-than-life personality, which was backed up by an imposing physique and impressive skills as a storyteller. Both the latter shine qualities with unmitigated brightness throughout The Mayor of MacDougal Street, which covers Von Ronk's work between 1957 and 1969. The CD cover promises the buyer "Never Before Released Tracks!" and there is an endearing rough-and-ready intimacy to the previously unheard songs on the album.
When Van Ronk sings - a capella - "The Butcher Boy," you get the feeling he's been there, done that and survived to tell the story. And, just in case anyone had any doubts about his blues credentials, a stirring rendition of Muddy Water's "Two Trains Running" proves his skills with style.
Van Ronk the storyteller comes through strongest on the comic "Shaving Cream." Like the rest of the album, the song demonstrates that Van Ronk never does anything halfway, and The Mayor of MacDougal Street serves as another testament to his ability to convey an array of feelings in the span of just a few numbers.