This is the third album from the hippest singer around, and, as the title suggests, it is mostly romantic in tone (Elling reveals that he has just married and "I had all these ideas in my head"). The music is also for dancing and smooching with recognizable elements of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole- but definitely in Elling's distinctive style. That style has been called 'pure' singing thanks to his musicianship and freshness of expression. There's a feeling that singing is just a natural thing for him and an earthy, emotional quality to the way his voice will 'break' makes the 'story-telling' sound so much more convincing- like Sinatra. Elling seems to live these lyrics.
Elling's hipness and natural poetry have never been better displayed than on 'Freddie's Yen For Jen' (the new Mrs. Elling is Jennifer), a freely swinging vocalese based on Freddie Hubbard's 'Delphia'- remember 'Delores' Dream', based on Wayne Shorter's 'Delores', which is on Elling's first album, Close Your Eyes? Another jazz adaptation has Kurt Elling's words to McCoy Tyner's 'Effendi'. The romance is Latin on Dorival Caymmi's 'Rosa Morena' with some fine guitar from David Onderdonk; 'My Foolish Heart' and 'The Very Thought of You' feature the interesting, little-known verses- in singing the lyrics to 'Thought of You' the word 'you is lengthened making it a more personal devotion. This track includes a brilliant bass solo from Rob Amster; 'She's Funny That Way' brings only the verse personalized for Jennifer; 'Too Young To Go Steady', a hit for Nat King Cole is a tender ballad with a fine tenor saxophone solo from Eddie Johnson; 'I Feel So Smoochie'- yes, there is such a song- is a swinger with superb jazz violinist Johnny Frigo; Irving Berlin's 'The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing', with some multi-tracked voice, even takes us back to the era of vocal groups like the Four Freshmen. The closing track, 'Everytime We Say Goodbye' is a moving duet from Kurt Elling and pianist Laurence Hobgood.
There is so much to hear and enjoy on This Time It's Love. As on the previous Kurt Elling releases the co-producer and pianist is Laurence Hobgood, not only an excellent accompanist and soloist, but also obviously the ideal musician for the world's hippest singer.
A further point of interest grabs you the moment you see the CD. The cover art features an illustration adapted from a painting by Johnny Warangku- la Tjupurrula. Could this be inspired by Kurt Elling's imminent tour of Australia? (Kurt Elling will tour Australia with Laurence Hobgood and his trio in October/November.)