6

Kurt Elling: The Beautiful Day

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
Kurt Elling: The Beautiful Day Forget the standard old tidings of good cheer, the same old set of swinging Christmas standards, and the sugary holiday treats that lack vitality and real sustenance. Kurt Elling certainly paid little mind to them when he was putting together this gem of a program. Instead of taking the road more traveled when it comes to holiday trips, Elling takes back roads and detours. And as with most of his projects, that makes all the difference.

For his first Christmas album, Elling does what he does best, embracing the art of possibility and enriching the topic(s) at hand with sophistication and sincerity. That's clear from the very first, as he quickly tips his hat to a bevy of Christmas favorites (in forty-five seconds) before leaving them behind for the cheery "Sing A Christmas Carol"—one of three selections here that were plucked from Leslie Bricusse's score for the 1970 film musical Scrooge. It's a merry introduction to what turns out to be one of the most gratifying holiday albums to emerge in years.

While Elling's programming savvy likely led to his decision to open in such an upbeat realm, his roaming artistic ear keeps him from staying put there. On first departure he creates a spectral body—a hazy sound painting, if you will—based on "Good King Wenceslaus." It's the first of three such variations that appear throughout the album. He then moves into a pensive state for a brief and extremely moving take on Terre Roche's "Star Of Wonder," delivers a powerful and mesmerizing take on "We Three Kings" that owes as much to his band's performance as it does to his own delivery, and takes a sly swinging stroll through Bricusse's "Christmas Children."

An easy waltzing "Some Children See," a swampy "Little Drummer Boy," further reflections on "Good King Wenceslaus," a marriage of Elling's lyrics and Edvard Grieg's music, and a smartly-rendered take on Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne" follow, further illustrating how one man's voice and personality can serve as the ties that bind seemingly dissimilar material. Elling's collaborators—most notably, pianist Stuart Mindeman, guitarist John McLean, bassist Clark Sommers, drummer Kendrick Scott, and saxophonist Jim Gailloreto—also work wonders in bringing everything together harmoniously under one roof.

Elling remains a man of poetry, passion, and purpose here, regardless of whether he's giving a soulful nod to Donny Hathaway, investing himself in the music of John Hollenbeck and the words of Kenneth Patchen, wishing and dreaming through a vocal duet with his daughter, or visiting any manner of other people and places. This album is truly a breath of fresh wintry air.

Track Listing: Sing A Christmas Carol; Wenceslaus (Image I); Star Of Wonder; We Three Kings; Christmas Children; Wenceslaus (Image II); Some Children See Him; Little Drummer Boy; Wenceslaus (Image III); The Michigan Farm (Cradle Song, Op. 41/1; The Snow Is Deep On The Ground/Snowfall; Same Old Lang Syne; This Christmas; The Beautiful Day.

Personnel: Kurt Elling: vocals, percussion; John McLean: acoustic guitars, electric guitars; Stuart Mindeman: piano, electric keyboards, Hammond B-3; Clark Sommers: bass; Jill Kaeding: cello; Jim Gailloreto: soprano saxophone; Tito Carrillo: trumpet; Kendrick Scott: drums; Kalyan Pathak: percussion; Luiza Elling: vocals.

Title: The Beautiful Day | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Okeh


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read The Crave CD/LP/Track Review The Crave
by John Sharpe
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub) CD/LP/Track Review Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub)
by Joe Gatto
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965 CD/LP/Track Review Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965
by Doug Collette
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Towards Language CD/LP/Track Review Towards Language
by John Eyles
Published: June 23, 2017
Read "Daylight Ghosts" CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Troy Dostert
Published: February 5, 2017
Read "The Duo - Live!" CD/LP/Track Review The Duo - Live!
by Chris Mosey
Published: October 2, 2016
Read "The Catfish" CD/LP/Track Review The Catfish
by Chris Mosey
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "Koan" CD/LP/Track Review Koan
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 12, 2016
Read "Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves" CD/LP/Track Review Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves
by Duncan Heining
Published: April 30, 2017
Read "In Love With" CD/LP/Track Review In Love With
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: July 25, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.