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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Kurt Elling with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra @ Sage Gateshead. May 20

(Review by Russell)
It is rare to be in the presence of a genuine superstar. On Wednesday evening one such occasion occurred at Sage Gateshead. The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra once again graced the stage in the world-class surroundings of Hall One on the banks of the Tyne. Master of Ceremonies George Duncan introduced the band, led by its Artistic Director Tommy Smith, to present a concert celebrating the centenary year of the birth of Frank Sinatra featuring special guest star Kurt Elling.
To describe Kurt Elling as a ‘special guest’ doesn't begin to attest to the singer’s global status; the vocalist from Chicago, Illinois, is, indisputably, top of the list, number one. The American strolled out into the spotlight in bespoke light grey, check suit and tan shoes. Sixty five minutes later the first set drew to a close. Elling sang without a break, never leaving the stage, the epitome of class. The baritone voice opened the programme with I Only Have Eyes For You. Fabulous, absolutely fabulous. Day In, Day Out. More fabulous singing, a man in total command of his art. The SNJO, perhaps the finest band in Europe, gave Elling everything he could possibly desire of an ensemble. Well known names peppered the sections: Tommy Smith and his fellow reeds of  Konrad Wisznieski, Martin Kershaw, Paul Towndrow and Bill Fleming; trombone men Chris Grieve and the hirsute Michael Owers; Tom MacNiven and Cameron Jay (trumpets) and one of the best rhythm sections around led by Brian Kellock (piano), new boy Joe Williamson (guitar), the very hirsute Calum Gourlay (double bass) and the pocket battleship, drummer Alyn Cosker.
Witchcraft, a dynamic Luck Be a Lady, The Good Life, Nelson Riddle’s arrangement of All or Nothing, then, same arranger, Summer Wind (the rich baritone simply wonderful), every tune out of this world. How about Night and Day? A favourite tune, magnificent! The interval consensus: magnificent! Collective surprise at, and admiration of, Elling’s stamina. Second set…
Altoist Martin Kershaw stepped out front to solo on a Lawrence Hobgood arrangement of Come Fly with Me (very much Elling’s personal take on the timeless number). You Make Me Feel So Young (the excitement was palpable, your reviewer’s notes: WOW!). Konrad Wiszniewski impressed as Elling implored: Get Me to the Church on Time. This being a Sinatra (Elling/Sinatra) show, My Kind of Town was kinda inevitable, and none the worse for it.
The orchestra performed brilliantly (as one has come to expect), Tommy Smith for once played second fiddle (tenor sax) to Kurt Elling. A word about Joe Williamson (guitar), a young musician studying in Scotland, schooled in the Tees Jazz Delta, it was just great that Smith informed the young man he was ready to make his debut with the band at Sage Gateshead. The north east of England is a hotbed of talent, no doubt about it. A new arrangement, again a personal take by Elling, of I Only Have Eyes For You featured a superb flugelhorn solo by Lorne Cowieson. Solo spots were limited as the focus of attention for much of the evening was, rightly, on the magnetic Kurt Elling.
Kurt Elling is a superstar, Frank Sinatra is a legend. Different eras, differing styles. One should avoid comparison, they stand alone as imperious performers. Gig of the Year. 
Russell.
Kurt Elling (vocals), The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: George Duncan MC,
Tommy Smith MD (tenor saxophone, flute), Konrad Wiszniewski (tenor saxophone, clarinet & flute), Martin Kershaw (alto saxophone, clarinet & flute), Paul Towndrow (alto saxophone & flute), Bill Fleming (baritone saxophone & flute), Tom Walsh (trumpet), Tom MacNiven (trumpet), Cameron Jay (trumpet), Lorne Cowieson (trumpet & flugelhorn), Chris Greive (trombone), Kieran McLeod (trombone), Phil O’Malley (trombone), Michael Owers (trombone), Brian Kellock (piano), Joe Williamson (guitar), Calum Gourlay (double bass) & Alyn Cosker (drums)

3 comments :

Debra Milne (on F/b) said...

I think Russell might have enjoyed the gig!

Kath Jobes said...

Yeah so much that Elling got an additional L in his name lol ;-)

Lance said...

Well spotted Ms Spell-Check - you've got the job(es). Now corrected.

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