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Krall channels jazz royalty in a spirited set

Diana Krall performs, with drummer Jeff Hamilton and bassist John Clayton, Saturday at the Bank of America Pavilion. Diana Krall performs, with drummer Jeff Hamilton and bassist John Clayton, Saturday at the Bank of America Pavilion. (robert e. klein for the boston globe)

The jazz world can be a tough place to find a comfort zone. It's intimidating (all those complicated chords and tricky time signatures) or ingratiating (cheese whiz Kenny G) or just plain off the radar for folks reticent to open that vaguely exotic can of worms.

Diana Krall is neither a cerebral innovator nor a smooth, toothless stylist. She's one of that near-extinct breed of jazz artist s with legitimate cred and impeccable chops who also relates to the masses : Think Nat "King" Cole and Peggy Lee . They were certainly on Krall's mind at her sparkling show for a near-capacity crowd at the Bank of America Pavilion on Saturday, during which she invoked those artists' musical legacy again and again. The 90-minute set kicked off with Lee's spirited "I Love Being Here With You." It's Krall's signature show-opener, but the song seemed to have special meaning in Boston, where Krall moved when she was 17 to attend the Berklee College of Music.

"It feels like home when I'm here," she said, and that sense of affability and ease infused everything from her fleet-fingered piano playing and classy phrasing to a spot-on, standards-saturated set .

Krall is a self-assured band leader, and her nimble trio -- guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist John Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton -- followed her clean, uncluttered lead. "You Call It Madness," one of several tributes to Cole, was pared down to a muted, breathless elegy. The Gershwins' evergreen "S'Wonderful" swung so slow and sweet several couples couldn't resist falling into swaying embraces.

Krall, a seriously unassuming performer, cracked a rare smile when she messed up her solo during an effervescent read of " 'Deed I Do," and again while apologizing for her shapeless tunic. "They said the weight would come right off during breast-feeding. That's [expletive]," explained Krall, the mother of 7-month-old twins with husband Elvis Costello.

Motherhood also seems to have endowed Krall with extra weight of a more welcome sort. We felt it when she sang Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" in husky, bitter tones, and during a surprising, show-closing cover of the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" In stripping the song of its anguished melodrama, Krall discovered its desolate soul.

Joan Anderman can be reached at anderman@globe.com. For more on music visit boston.com/ae/ music/blog.

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Diana Krall

With Doug Wamble

At: Bank of America Pavilion, Saturday

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