STEVEN MIRKIN, FOR THE REGISTER
Player-piano music and old, black-and-white cartoons played as the audience took their seats at the Greek Theatre for Diana Krall’s performance Saturday night. Once the lights went down, Steve Buscemi appeared on screen in a bowler hat, pancake makeup and a dark suit, looking like a cross between his Boardwalk Empire character Nucky Thompson and a Magritte painting. He spoke the opening lines of “When the Curtain Comes Down,” passing a word on to the wise guys, confessing that “we’re actors, and here’s our game.” That was immediately followed by Krall loping into “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye.”
Those two songs bookend Glad Rag Doll, last year’s sepia-toned honey of a collection on Verve Records. The album, another burnished gem produced by T Bone Burnett, has the smoky intimacy of a late-night session, carrying its sophistication lightly, the playing understated but masterful.
The easy swing and nodding joy marks it as the kind of music musicians play for their own pleasure – and indeed, sitting among a glittery, tipsy crescent moon, with metal stars on the curtains and atop poles, Krall and her crack five-piece band could have been playing backstage on the vaudeville circuit.
Yet, for all its artifice, the show presented Krall at her most personal. Most of the Glad Rag Doll material was taken from her father’s array of early 20th-century 78 rpm records (she even had his gramophone on stage), and the jazz chanteuse not only talked about the composer and who first recorded those songs but told family stories – Sunday mornings with an aunt who would sneak her Kahlua and milk and play the piano, for instance.