Singer Kurt Elling’s first three recordings for Blue Note records were quite ambitious, but being studio albums, they lost much of Elling’s spirit in the production. The jazz singer, like the poet, is best heard live. Elling, captured during a three-night gig at Chicago’s Green Mill, finally has realized (on record) his full potential. He’s a scatting, rapping, swinging metaphysician of hip. The former philosophy and divinity student picks up on the vocal tradition of Mark Murphy, maybe becoming the Chicago cousin of Frank Sinatra. Packed with guest appearances, the seventy minutes of music hardly seems adequate to satisfy a listener. There’s a duet with hand drummer Kahil El’Zabar on Sting’s “Oh My God,” Jon Hendricks joins in on two tracks swapping vocals and smart scatting, and Chicago saxophonists Ed Petersen, Von Freeman, and Eddie Johnson crash the party for the spoken-word jam, “The Rent Party.” An early entry into my list of jazz records of the year, Elling is the everyman’s singer. Like Tony Bennett, and Springsteen for that matter, his voice isn’t pretty but real. You think, I could sing like that and then he scats “The Flight of The Bumblebee,” and you realize there’s a fuel-injected six-cylinder turbo under his hood. As long as he doesn’t catch Cassandra Wilson (overproduction) disease, he should be at the top of the vocal game for some time.
Track Listing: Downtown; My Foolish Heart; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes; Oh My God; Night Dream; (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons; spoken intro: (Esperanto); Esperanto; Don
Personnel: Kurt Elling- voice; Laurence Hobgood- piano; Rob Amster- acoustic bass; Michael Raynor- drums & percussion; Jon Hendricks- voice on "Don
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.