Diana Krall will be exposing herself more than ever when she returns to her native Canada in June for her world premiere solo performances at this year's Festival International de Jazz de Montreal.
The singer-pianist, whose career boomed after she made her festival debut with a Nat King Cole tribute in 1995, will be returning for the first time since the festival's 25th anniversary in 2004.
"We asked her to go out of her way and do something special and suggested an octet or big band," festival co-founder and artistic director Andre Menard said. "She came back with the idea to go in a smaller hall and ... do three nights of solo performances.
"She's never done that since she's a professional," added Menard, who said Krall would be performing from June 26-28 at the Theatre Maisonneuve. "She says that she's a bit intimidated but at the same time she requested to do that and we're pretty excited."
Menard spoke Thursday night at a press event at New York's Birdland jazz club, where he previewed highlights of the 32nd annual Montreal festival that runs from June 25 to July 4. The festival offers hundreds of free concerts on 10 outdoor stages as well as indoor concerts in 12 different halls around the Place des Arts, the downtown performing arts center.
"It's become the biggest cultural event in Canada and we're now in the Guinness Record book as the biggest jazz festival in the world," said Menard.
Former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant will be returning to his roots with The Band of Joy, the name of one of his first bands, at a pre-opening concert at the main Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on June 24. The following night, flamenco guitar virtuoso Paco de Lucia will perform the festival opening concert in the same hall. Peter Frampton will be featured there June 30 in a recreation of his concert that produced the 1976 double album "Frampton Comes Alive," one of the best-selling live concert albums.
Ninety-year-old jazz piano legend Dave Brubeck, who Menard says is the only musician with a standing invitation to play the festival, will be returning for the fourth year in a row. Other jazz headliners include surprise Best New Artist Grammy-winner Esperanza Spalding with the Chamber Music Society, Chick Corea's Return to Forever IV, Dave Holland, the Brad Mehldau-Joshua Redman duo, and the Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller orchestras sharing the stage again for a battle of the bands.
Singers Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright will be honoring the legacies of the recently departed Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta _ all known for their outspoken support of the civil rights struggle.
Other featured vocalists include Tony Bennett, Marianne Faithfull, Sade, Dee Dee Bridgewater in a tribute to Billie Holiday, 17-year-old Canadian jazz singing sensation Nikki Yanofsky with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, popular African singer Youssou N'Dour, and k.d. Lang with her new alt-country band Siss Boom Bang.
Amidst all the stars, Menard also is presenting a humanitarian musical show, Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats, featuring teenage Roma from Serbia who mix world beat, hip-hop and rap with traditional Roma music _ promoting a positive image of young Roma who face discrimination throughout Europe.
Singer-guitarist John Pizzarelli, who was performing at Birdland, said that over the past 20 years he's been among the most frequent performers at the Montreal festival.
"I've heard a lot of great music there over the years and met a lot of musicians that I've never seen anywhere else in the world," said Pizzarelli. "It's always so much fun. I always try to get there a day or two early so I can hang out."