Diana Krall doesn't have the world's strongest voice; her husky alto shies away from the outer edges of vocal range and dynamics, and her pitch is less than pinpoint perfect. And yet her new album of vintage standards, "When I Look in Your Eyes," is wonderfully sensual and satisfying. How can that be?
Krall knows that technique is secondary to forging an emotional connection with the listener. She establishes just such a link by creating the illusion that she's whispering into the ear of a lover. Krall takes the minimalism of Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee a step further by stripping away every hint of Broadway brassiness from these show tunes. Her own economical piano accompaniment, Russell Malone's hollow-body guitar licks, even Johnny Mandel's string charts on seven numbers, resemble the sighs and murmurs of a close encounter of the romantic kind.
The album is devoted to positive love songs such as Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin," George Gershwin's "Do It Again" and Harold Arlen's "Let's Fall in Love." These songs can easily turn sweetly sentimental, but Krall avoids that danger by giving them a sexual charge simmering with unpredictability.
Appearing Sunday at Wolf Trap with Tony Bennett. To hear a free Sound Bite from Diana Krall, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8125. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)