Kurt Elling: Nightmoves (2007)
Kurt Elling has mellowed some. Quite the original voice in jazz for more than a decade, he's introduced us to adventure and thrills. He's helped to maintain the spirit of straight-ahead jazz with a superb pianist by his side while moving enchantingly in and out of the mainstream. Elling's soothing baritone voice lends itself to both the romantic ballad and to the thrills of more adventurous music.
Lately, however, he's concentrated more on the romantic ballad and has put less effort into challenging material. It works, of course, but some of the spontaneity has disappeared. Through one romantic moment after another, Elling rewards us with lyric beauty while following the normal path for lovers. Pop music popularity combines with mellow overtures for a program that everyone can feel deeply.
Nightmoves rolls comfortably with a program of poignant ballads. Even "A New Body and Soul, the old chestnut of a jazz standard interpreted in his unique, personal manner, remains true to its original form. Vocalese makes up a part what the singer does with this familiar tune, and he does create a masterpiece worthy of award-winning accolades. Pianist Laurence Hobgood, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Willie Jones III breathe life into the piece in support. Together, they represent jazz's mainstream with genuine authority.
Most of the program remains tied to passionate ballads. Elling fills these selections with emotion worthy of goose bumps and back-of-the-neck tingling. Bob Mintzer lends an ethereal tenor saxophone quality to two selections, while the Escher String Quartet joins Elling's quartet for his heartfelt reading of "Where Are You, My Love? and "The Sleepers. Guitarist Guilherme Monteiro lends a bossa nova presence to several selections along with sultry harmonica refrains from guests Howard Levy and Gregoire Maret that captivate. Bassist Rob Amster joins Elling on "The Waking for a lovely duet ballad performance that simmers gently. When the singer turns to his pianist for "In the Wee Small Hours, he summarizes his latest album accurately through an emotional reading that adorns his shirtsleeve with hearts that glow noticeably.
Track Listing: Nightmoves; Tight; Change Partners/If You Never Come to Me; Undun; Where Are You, My Love?; And We Will Fly; The Waking; The Sleepers; Leaving Again/In the Wee Small Hours; A New Body and Soul; I Like the Sunrise.
Personnel: Kurt Elling: vocals; Laurence Hobgood: piano; Willie Jones, III: drums; Christian McBride: bass (1-4,6,10); Rob Amster: bass (5,7,8,11); Rob Mounsey: electric piano, keyboards (1, 4, 6); Guilherme Monteiro: guitar (3,6); Bob Mintzer: tenor sax (1); Howard Levy: harmonica (3); Gregoire Maret: harmonica (6); The Escher String Quartet (5,8).