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Krall brings an intimate jazz club to Britt

It took four guys to set up the Steinway grand Diana Krall would play at Britt, and one to dust off the bench on which she'd sit. It's good to be a star.

And that's what the 44-year-old Grammy winner is. In Krall's hands jazz quits sounding like an FM radio cult and becomes something relevant to the rhythms of everyday life. Wednesday night Krall turned the Britt hillside into an intimate jazz club, serving up slinky standards and torchy ballads in a show that had Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney smiling somewhere.

After an opening of the intricate chamber guitar work of New West, a young trio that includes Britt camp alumnus John Storie, Krall took the stage in jeans and sexy red shoes, her long, blonde hair falling over a spangled white and black blouse. She kicked off the show with an upbeat version of Peggy Lee's "I Love Being Here With You" introduced by a rippling figure in the high register and followed it with a sultry, contemporary take on Cole Porter's "Let's Fall in Love."

It was an evening in which the husky-voiced Krall and her supporting cast — guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Jeff Hamilton — eschewed for the most part the Latin-flavored material she's been doing lately in favor of straight ahead jazz and slinky standards. Although they did do "So Nice," a gentle samba from Krall's "Quiet Nights," which got a low-key, almost for-laughs treatment.

"I don't think I've ever been here before, have I?" she said.

It was the only wrong move she made all night.

She talked about hubby Elvis Costello, who was at Britt just last week, vamped on the moon, mock-free-assocated to a joke she ripped off from Sasha Baron Cohen about Louis Armstrong walking on the moon and bragged about the produce of Vancouver, B.C. She talked about the vagaries of life on the road in a tour bus with her 2-year-old twins and played a little stride piano.

She said her father's record collection got her interested in jazz as a youngster, and that she went to the famed Berklee College of Music. She didn't say she was mentored by Rosemary Clooney, has lived on the Billboard jazz charts, has toured with Tony Bennett and earned multiple Grammy nominations.

When the crowd yelled goofy stuff, she said, "Maybe I'll play a Marx Brothers song."

But what she sang instead was an intimate reading of Al Dubin and Harry Warren's "I'll String Along With You."

As the evening darkened Krall's lights enhanced the illusion of a small jazz club, which was appropriate since she and her band are essentially the classic jazz trio of piano, bass and drums, plus Wilson's guitar and one world-class, occasionally quirky singer in the bargain.

She sang Tom Waits' "Jockey Full Of Bourbon" ("Hey little bird, fly away home/Your house is on fire, children are alone") with a gentle swing, and Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" with feeling and even a bit of Mitchell-like phrasing. Which maybe stood out because Krall's own phrasing is often distinctive as she sings between and behind the beat.

Missing from the set — at least up to a reviewer's zero hour — were "The Boy From Ipanema," her take on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "The Girl From Ipanema" and Elvis's classic "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding."

No matter. She turned in an epic "Dancing Cheek to Cheek" — not exactly a number you think of as a big rave-up — that took it out there and then took it further. Yowza.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com.