The great jazz singer Kurt Elling doesn't take the easy way out on his new Christmas album. The Beautiful Day mixes its holiday cheer with the moody and meditative, as he ponders the rites of the holiday and the sometimes roller coaster of emotions that can engulf us. This rich, sophisticated album mixes classics and some unexpected choices to create one of the most enjoyable new Christmas albums in recent memory.
The joyous "Sing a Christmas Carol" (from Scrooge) is light and merry. But wait until you hear the powerful "We Three Kings" and the moving version of Terre Roche's "Star of Wonder." Perhaps the best here is the melancholy, haunting ballad "The Michigan Farm (Cradle Song Op. 41/1)," which is based on a lullaby by Edvard Grieg.
His pop chops are confident as he approaches Donny Hathaway's soulful "This Christmas" and Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne," reflecting the latter's melancholia with a sure tone and emotional context.
Elling approaches seasonal material as he would anything else -- with passion, openness and a stunning emotional depth and musicality.