CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston's Clay Center became a vaudeville house for about two hours Sunday as jazz pianist Diana Krall brought her "Glad Rag Doll" tour to a close in the capitol city.Krall, known for her breathy vocal style and red-hot piano solos, performed a catalog of mostly obscure material, much of it culled from the 1920s and '30s.The name for the tour -- and the album released last year of the same name -- is taken from a song Krall discovered on a 78 rpm record in her father's eclectic music collection. Krall dedicated the tune to female vaudeville performers, many of whom died young and tragically, according to singer and instrumentalist.The show was set to a backdrop of black and white film clips integrated into the performance, many of them created for the show. The flickering, silent footage added humor and poignancy to many of the tunes, most of which were unfamiliar to the bulk of the audience.Though much of the repertoire was taken from the 1920s and '30s, the decade-hopping Krall also performed more contemporary pieces that included works by Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan. And the fact that some of the music was written during the time of flappers, Prohibition and the Great Depression didn't stop Krall from breaking into solos on a Fender Rhodes electric piano, or keep multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan from taking flight on distortion guitar or electric fiddle.
Duncan, in another life a member of the award-winning Nashville Bluegrass Band and a sought-after road musician, was the unsung hero of the evening. Though Krall is a virtuoso on piano and all members of her band were excellent musicians, Duncan was showcased throughout the night, playing instrumental breaks on electric guitar, electric fiddle, two different acoustic guitars and the horned violin, an obscure instrument of the late 19th and early 20th century that combines a bowed violin with a metal horn like that found on an early gramophone.At one point, Duncan even played an extended blues solo on ukulele.Krall took a break from the band in the middle of the show for an extended solo set, bantering easily with the audience, her stream-of-consciousness monologues creating a sense of intimacy in a well-filled concert hall.At the end of the evening, the audience had experienced something somewhat rare in today's world of arena concerts and greed-inspired comeback tours staged for the bottom line. Krall is an artist who loves what she's doing, puts her heart and soul into it, and really seems to care about those who come to see her.Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org