A dazzling smorgasbord of scat, vocalese, poetry and stream of consciousness, Kurt Elling's first ever residency at Ronnie Scott's achieved immediate lift-off last night.
Singer Elling's quintet â€“ long-time musical collaborator Laurence Hobgood (piano), Harish Raghavan (bass), John McLean (guitar) and Troy Miller (drums) â€“ artfully mixed tempo, texture and temperature across two wide-ranging sets, from a swinging 'Steppin' Out' and a lustrous 'You Are Too Beautiful' to a statuesque 'My One and Only Love' and revitalised 'Nature Boy', the latter characterised by vertiginous leaps from the chest voice to falsetto.
A stunning take on 'Norwegian Wood', which enfolded 'Man in Space' (a poem by former US poet laureate, Billy Collins) as its startling centrepiece, offered a tantalising foretaste of Elling's next release The Gate.
As an encore the singer served up 'She's Funny That Way', an infinitely touching vocalese version of Lester Young's solo from The Aladdin Sessions â€“ featuring just Hobgood's perfectly weighted accompaniment, Elling's paean to love cast a warm glow over the entire club. It also offered conclusive proof that, while the singer's impossibly deluxe baritone voice just gets better, his command of line, tone and narrative deepens. This must-see show is at Ronnie's until Saturday.