Singer-pianist Diana Krall made her New York cabaret debut in the Algonquin’s Oak Room Tuesday night in high style. Clad in a sleeveless orange outfit, this alluring Sharon Stone look-alike from Nanaimo, B.C., exuded a cool sexuality that sets her act apart from the current retro crop of Nat King Cole Trio clones.
Krall burst into the jazz spotlight only in recent months, riding the momentum of a new, strikingly packaged album of King Cole Trio favorites, “All For You” (Impulse), and an adoring Time magazine profile in June. It’s easy to figure out what is attracting all the attention — the combination of her great looks, her slightly edgy voice, and a composed, enigmatic expression that seems to mask something dangerous.
Krall is anything but a belter; her understated, always controlled voice is just right for the intimate dimensions of this small, wood-paneled room. She doesn’t take too many chances in phrasing or straying from the tune, and when she broods about the vicissitudes of love, we hear not world-weariness or angst but rather a sullen acceptance of fate.
While Krall retains the Cole format (piano/guitar/bass) and spent a good deal of her set ruminating through his repertoire, as a pianist, she rarely sounds anything like Cole. Her inspiration, at least on this evening, seemed to come from the funkier schools mixed with standard-issue bop — and make no mistake, her chops are pretty formidable.
Nor does her trio emulate the lighter-than-air bounce of the Cole group; they can swing but it’s a different, more weighted feeling, perhaps too much so for a lark like “Hit That Jive Jack.”
Russell Malone, who plays the Oscar Moore guitar role in this version of the Cole trio, expertly loaded up on cotton-like octaves and smooth single-note runs. Paul Keller excelled on standup bass.
Yet Krall’s showstopper was not a Cole number but rather a puckish piece by Dave Frishberg called “Peel Me a Grape,” which seems to have found its ideal interpreter.