September 25, 2006 12:00 PM

Diana Krall may be known for her sultry ballads, but at this moment, her all-consuming passion is the chocolate cake in front of her. “A little bit of chocolate is good for the babies,” says Krall, 41, as she licks a glob of icing off her fork, “and for the mother’s mood!”

Not that she needs much mood enhancement these days. As the delighted jazz artist reveals, she and her husband, Elvis Costello, are expecting not just one but two babies in December. Her bliss is reflected in her 10th album, From This Moment On, a collection of upbeat, old-time pop standards out Sept. 19. “I’m really happy,” says Krall, “and that’s been a difficult thing to say in the last little while.”

Krall’s last album, 2004’s The Girl in the Other Room, chronicled a much sadder time in the life of the two-time Grammy winner who brought jazz back to the pop charts. In her first foray into songwriting (Costello cowrote six tracks), the singer-pianist delved into the pain of losing her mother, Adella, who died in 2002 after a six-year battle with cancer. “Making that record was intense, but it helped me process [the emotions],” she says. “I wouldn’t have been able to get here if I hadn’t gone through all of that.”

Helping her to make that journey was Costello, 52, whom she met in February 2002 at the Grammy Awards—just months before her mother’s death—and wed in December 2003. She and her husband, says Krall, “share a desire to experience everything in life that we possibly can. He’s the love of my life and he’s just my heart.” The two have spent much of their married life juggling separate touring schedules. “Ten days apart is romantic, because you miss each other and then you’re home,” says Costello, who carries photos of his wife—and her songs—on his iPod. “But six weeks apart, and you feel like you’re on the planet Jupiter; it gets so unbearable.” With both of them taking a break before the arrival of the babies, Krall is savoring their time together. Now, she jokes, “I don’t want him to go to the corner store.”

The couple have homes in New York City and on Vancouver Island. “I love the energy of Manhattan, but I also need to be in the mountains,” says Krall, a native of British Columbia. In both places Costello brews evening tea for his wife and “loves to do laundry,” she divulges somewhat reluctantly. “And yes, he irons too!”

He’s not the only music icon in her inner circle. Elton John, whose estate outside London was the site of her wedding, is a pal. “I met Elton for dinner the day I got the baby news,” Krall recalls. “Within the first five minutes, he looked me up and down and said, ‘You’re pregnant!'” And then there’s Tony Bennett, with whom she toured in 2000. Last month in New York, Krall and Costello serenaded him at his 80th-birthday party.

In fact, Krall sees Bennett, Sir Elton, Costello and herself as “a bit like the Rat Pack.” The foursome gathered recently at a benefit for Vancouver General Hospital that raised more than $2 million for research into blood-related cancers. “Instead of a somber occasion,” says Krall, who became involved in the cause when her mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer, “it was like a big party.”

For the next three months, it will be a party of two, anticipating the arrival of two special guests. Krall is planning to hunker down with her husband to watch old movies, listen to Bing Crosby records and practice staying up late for those 2 a.m. feedings. “Oh, I don’t sleep anyway; in fact, neither of us do,” says Costello, adding with a laugh, “How do you think we got into this trouble?”

For Krall it’s no trouble at all. “I read this checklist the other day that says I’m supposed to have, like, 12 onesies, which means I need 24,” the first-time mom-to-be says with a contented sigh. “What’s a onesie? What’s a contraction feel like? I have no clue. It’s overwhelming and sometimes frustrating. But it’s a divine dissatisfaction.”

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