When singer-pianist Diana Krall appeared last year in Chicago, the Tribune decided that the success she was enjoying–minor by entertainment-industry standards, but major in terms of jazz–made her “the female counterpart to Harry Connick Jr.” This notion falls apart rather quickly on listening to Krall; her unpretentious adaptation of older jazz classics is easily distinguished from Connick’s shallow mimicry. Unfortunately, the backlash gets a helping hand from the cover of Krall’s new collection of ballads, Love Scenes (Impulse): the opulent photography consciously evokes the Hollywood film sirens of the 40s, and the sultry stares and elegant poses (half serious and half put-on, I hope) do raise a question about just what’s being sold here. But only the music ultimately matters, and in that respect Krall once again delivers the goods. As on her previous effort, she leads a trio that evokes the Nat “King” Cole groups she so admires from the late 30s and 40s (with bass and guitar but no drums), and on piano she lays lithe right-hand lines against harmonically active left-hand voicings. Most of all, Krall’s cool, airy vocals reveal the extent to which she’s absorbed Cole’s naturalistic phrasing and arched-eyebrow inflection–which are equally effective on up-tempo novelty numbers and the occasional slow-as-snails love song. Krall also carries a secret weapon in the person of the astonishing guitarist Russell Malone. The two albums under his own name don’t even hint at his history-spanning command of styles–on his last visit with Krall, he took one solo that ranged coherently and lyrically from prejazz Delta blues to postbop chord clusters, all in the space of a few choruses. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, September 12 and 13, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, September 14, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. The trio also performs Wednesday at 12:30 PM at Borders Books & Music, 830 N. Michigan; 312-573-0564. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Diana Krall photo/ uncredited.