There are some consistencies in life. The Middle East will always be a hot spot, the New York Yankees will overspend to be also-rans, and Kurt Elling will never disappoint an audience.
The Chicago-based jazz singer gave another star turn Friday night at the Centre for the Performing Arts, delivering a set that began with a Joe Jackson pop song, revisited the great 1963 album vocalist Johnny Hartman made with saxophone legend John Coltrane, and concluding with a lovely duo version of In the Wee Small Hours.
Elling, accompanied by long-time accompanist Laurence Hobgood on piano, human dynamo Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone, and relative newcomers Harish Raghavan on bass and Aaron McLendon on drums (who both later showed up at the midnight jam session at O'Doul's), performed with poise and taste. Elling has enormous range (in the area of four octaves), but he only uses it when it suits the material, like his runs to the upper register on Dedicated to You.
Watts was pure fire when called on to solo, and Hobgood once again proved he's the best unknown jazz pianist on the planet.