4

Kurt Elling: 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Kurt Elling: 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project The Brill Building holds a special place in popular music history, not just because of the songs crafted within its walls, but also because of what it has come to represent. The ideal of the Brill Building is associated with songs that soundtrack the lives and loves of millions of people around the world. Singer Kurt Elling's tribute to that ideal, 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project, crackles with life as it connects with the emotions these songs engender.

Elling's position at the top of the male jazz singers' tree has been unassailed for over a decade, topping the DownBeat Critics' Poll for the thirteenth time in 2012, the seventh for the Readers' Poll. His richly expressive voice has much to do with this position, but it's not the whole story. Elling deserves equal praise for the originality of his interpretations and breadth of material. This album is strong on all three counts: Elling selects Songbook classics and pop favorites, throws in a few curveball interpretations and is on top form vocally, although his technical virtuosity threatens, at times, to overwhelm the lyrical message of "Come Fly With Me" and "On Broadway."

"On Broadway" opens with a short spoken word vignette where various "industry people"—played by a cast including Elling's longtime pianist Laurence Hobgood, and singer Dianne Reeves—reject the eager Elling as he attempts to persuade them of his talents. "Have you ever considered law school?" asks one. Of course, once he opens up with "They say the neon lights are bright...," their foolhardiness is exposed.

Elling adds a chunk of cynicsm to the cheeky satire of The Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday" with spoken interjections of which guitarist/composer Frank Zappa would be proud: a terrific reinterpretation made even better by John McLean's crunching guitar. The reworking of "You Send Me" replaces composer Sam Cooke's soulful romance with a smooth '80s R&B vibe, the trade-off adding an air of sophistication, reducing the original's intimacy.

A delightful "Shoppin' For Clothes" features a guest appearance by famed bassist Christian McBride, but rather than his usual role—Clark Sommers does a great job in that department—he's acting. McBride assumes the role of an increasingly frustrated menswear salesman dealing with Elling's attempt to buy a sharp suit. It's a genuinely funny performance—if the bottom ever falls out of the bass playing trade, McBride's second career is assured.

Elling's finest performances are on ballads. Hobgood's arrangement of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "A House Is Not A Home" for the core quartet is exquisitely realized: cool, romantic and heartbreaking. Paul Simon's "An American Tune" gets the simplest arrangement of all, just Hobgood's spacious piano and Elling's soaring voice. It's beautiful.

Were all of these songs written in 1619 Broadway? Probably not, but it doesn't matter. They are all recognizably Brill Building songs in terms of style, subject matter and sheer quality—in terms of the ideal. Great songs are characterized by their openness to fresh interpretations and, on 1619 Broadway, Elling gives them some of the freshest interpretations around.

Track Listing: On Broadway; Come Fly With Me; You Send Me; I Only Have Eyes For You; I'm Satisfied; A House Is Not A Home; Shoppin' For Clothes; So Far Away; Pleasant Valley Sunday; American Tune; Tutti For Cootie.

Personnel: Kurt Elling: vocals; John McLean: guitar; Laurence Hobgood: piano, voice (1, 9); Clark Sommers: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums, congas; Christian McBride: voice (7); Joel Frahm: tenor saxophone (4, 7); Ernie Watts: tenor saxophone (5, 8); Tom Luer: alto saxophone (11), tenor saxophone (2, 4, 11); Kye Palmer: trumpet (11), flugelhorn (2, 4, 11); Luiza Elling: voice (9); Sara Collins: voice (1); Eric Denniston: voice (1); Jennifer Elling: voice (1); Jeff Greenberg: voice (1); Nic Harcourt: voice (1); Chris Hinderaker: voice (1); Vanessa parr: voice (1); Michael Podell: voice (1); Dianne Reeves: voice (1); Jonathan Stuart: voice (1); Daye L Turner: voice (1); Mary Vinci: voice (1); Michael Zettier: voice (1); Dominic Zingone: voice (1); Fred Zollo: voice (1).

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Concord Records | Style: Vocal


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Ha Noi Duo CD/LP/Track Review Ha Noi Duo
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Like, Strange CD/LP/Track Review Like, Strange
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Coalesce CD/LP/Track Review Coalesce
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Il sistema periodico CD/LP/Track Review Il sistema periodico
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Code Noir CD/LP/Track Review Code Noir
by James Nadal
Published: March 27, 2017
Read Welcome to Swingsville! CD/LP/Track Review Welcome to Swingsville!
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Hear & Now" CD/LP/Track Review Hear & Now
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Ida Y Vuelta" CD/LP/Track Review Ida Y Vuelta
by James Nadal
Published: December 30, 2016
Read "Alpha Nebula Expanded: The Monster Peace" CD/LP/Track Review Alpha Nebula Expanded: The Monster Peace
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 17, 2016
Read "Avant Funk" CD/LP/Track Review Avant Funk
by Geannine Reid
Published: June 26, 2016
Read "Dancing Our Way To Death" CD/LP/Track Review Dancing Our Way To Death
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 16, 2016
Read "The Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review The Unknown
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 10, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!