When Diana Krall was 24 years old, the Canadian pianist /chanteuse was introduced to the great jazz keyboardist Cedar Walton one night at the old Manhattan jazz club Fat Tuesday’s.
“Cedar said, ‘I can see that name up in lights,’ ” recalled Krall, who performs Wednesday at the Paramount Theatre. “Just before he died (last year), we were all sitting around the table, and I said, ‘Cedar, do you remember 20 years ago, I met you in a bar you told me that?’
Walton answered, “Yeah, well, I say that to a lot of women. But you’re the only one it’s come true for.”
Krall, in New York, taking a break from her current tour, got a good laugh out of that.
But whether he was just flirting or really meant it, Walton turned out to be right. After years of paying dues on the road, the Nanaimo, B.C., native has become the most popular jazz vocalist since Ella Fitzgerald.
The recipient of two Grammy awards — for “When I Look in Your Eyes” (2000) and the extraordinary “Live in Paris” (2003) — Krall, 49, has sold 15 million albums, including nine gone gold (500,000 sales) and three platinum (1 million).
Her new disc, “Glad Rag Doll,” inspired by vaudeville, is her freshest, most satisfying in years.
“I grew up listening to a lot of Annette Hanshaw and a lot of Gene Austin and Ruth Etting,” Krall said, referring to pop singers from the ’20s and ’30s. “My dad collects 78s.”
Though Krall has always been attracted to vintage material — the title track is a 1928 lament for a painted lady, recorded by Etting — the new album’s Americana and rockabilly production by T Bone Burnett marks a left turn.
“It was such a blast to work with him,” she said, of Burnett. “That album was a life- changing experience for me, in every way. I’m just feeling so comfortable with myself now.”
One of the album’s highlights is the sweet old Jimmie Rogers tune, “Prairie Lullaby,” which she has sung her twin boys to sleep with.
The “Glad Rag Doll” Paramount show is new territory for Krall — a full-on theatrical event that even uses her dad’s old gramophone as a prop.
“I’ve re-created a vaudeville setting,” said Krall. “Bring your popcorn. And your whiskey!”
Though the public thinks of Krall as a singer, she is a respectable jazz pianist. She was surprised — and pleased — to hear that her signature, sassy style was immediately identifiable on Paul McCartney’s most recent album, “Kisses on the Bottom.”
“I did the arrangements,” she explained. “That’s probably why you could tell it was me. But that’s a great compliment. I’m really proud of that record.”
Krall is married to English rock singer Elvis Costello, so hanging out with rock royalty is nothing new for her. But when she got the call from McCartney, she was thrilled beyond words.
“Can you imagine?” she said, still sounding a bit surprised by the whole thing. “That was the best experience I’ve ever had working with another artist in my life.”
But for all her success, Krall is in some ways the same straight-talking, aw-shucks girl from Nanaimo she’s always been.
She still doesn’t take high compliments easily.
When reminded that her name went up in lights, as Walton predicted, because she’s really good at what she does — selling a song — she replied, “I’m OK.”
Then added, “Great ideas. No chops.”
8 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $45.75-$95.75 (877-784-4849 or www.stgpresents.org).
Paul de Barros: 206-464-3247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.