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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

CD Review – Kurt Elling 1619 Broadway, The Brill Building Project.

Kurt Elling (vocal); Probably Laurence Hobgood (Keys/Arranger); ? (Sax); Ulysses Owen Jnr. (Drums); John McLean (Electric Guitar); Clark Sommer (Bass).
(Review by Ann Alex).
This CD, release date 1st October 2012, features (I quote) renditions of classic songs that came out of the Brill Building (Manhattan), from an array of renowned songwriters including Burt Bacharach, Paul Simon, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and Carole King. Indeed, it was in the Brill Building that Bacharach met the lyricist Hal David who passed away last week. A House is Not a Home was one of the many hits the duo wrote and it is sung in Elling’s distinctive style.

Details of the musicians are not given in the Promo CD insert, so I’m taking an educated guess on the above listing, but they do a good job, whoever they are, working on eleven fine songs, such as On Broadway; I Only Have Eyes For You; and Paul Simon’s warts-and-all hymn to America,  American Tune.  The project deliberately avoided including songs by those composers who usually appear on jazz albums, such as Gershwin or Cole Porter.
The opening track, On Broadway, with its theatrical spoken introduction, has effective bass and drums (the drums predominate throughout) with a cool-sounding electric guitar solo.  Other tracks show the keys to good effect, rippling and weaving on You Send Me, or sensitively accompanying the voice on American Tune.  Sax and bass solos do their stuff well and on the last track, Tootie for Cootie, the musicians produce something of a ‘big band feel’, which contrasts nicely with the lonely ‘New York’ feel of earlier tracks.
But I have to confess that I have problems listening to Elling.  Whilst his song interpretations really are innovative, I feel that he has moved somewhat too far away from the original tune.  He didn’t sing the ‘straight’ melody to many of the songs at all.  One can argue that jazz is all about improvisation, but the listener needs to hear what is being improvised upon to some extent, so that there is a reference point.  Others may find that Elling’s style of improvisation is more to their taste, but I found his style vaguely irritating. I much preferred him when he adopted a more straightforward style such as he used for American Tune, or when doing the swingy version of I’m Satisfied.
This is a CD which, whilst it gave me a mixed musical experience, will no doubt be seized upon by his legions of fans and probably gain him a tenth Grammy nomination – so what do I know?.
Ann Alex   
Kurt Elling: 1619 Broadway, The Brill Building Project -  Released Oct. 1.

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