This is a Lincoln Centre live recording of singer Kurt Elling's 2008 London jazz festival show. It pays tribute to John Coltrane's ballad meeting with singer Johnny Hartman, Impulse records' 1963 attempt to soften the messianic sax improviser for a nervous public. Elling takes these dialogues with saxophonist Ernie Watts and brilliant pianist Laurence Hobgood light years away from a respectful cover-job.
His chilling, Mark Murphy-like falsetto makes an astonishing job of Lush Life - and if the spoken backstory is a little stilted, a breezy account of They Say It's Wonderful represents Elling and Hobgood at their most unwound. Watts gets plenty of exposure for his affecting blend of mellowness and tenor-sax tremulousness, and a long You Are Too Beautiful - richly intertwining Watts's double-time reflections, Hobgood's fleet runs and evocative string arrangements and Elling's soft melodic swerves - climaxes the set. The lyrics are maybe a bit fulsome for the cryptic hip-hop era, but Elling bends them as far as he can.