"Having done so many projects about my love for Chicago," singer Kurt Elling says, "I wanted to make something that speaks of my love for New York." A New York resident for the past four years, every one of Elling's previous nine albums have been Grammy nominated in the jazz category.
The songs chosen with his longtime collaborator and arranger Laurence Hobgood for Elling's latest set, 1619 Broadway - The Brill Building Project, are perhaps not the expected sampling of classic Gershwin, Rodgers-Hart and Cole Porter. This is a salute to the mythic status of the warren-like offices and famously claustrophobic studios in the Brill Building, which for decades served as creative home for the pop-music industry from the mid '30s through the '70s. The wide range of songs chosen extends far beyond that time.
Typical of the atmospheric reharmonization of a classic is the opener, "On Broadway", on which Elling cuts loose with unexpected rhythms. No less striking is his take on the 1957 Van Heusen-Cahn swinger "Come Fly With Me". Sinatra's classic version is a rollicking contrast to Elling's invite, one which impresses as an invitation for mutual self-discovery.
Easily shifting his throaty baritone into a soaring falsetto gives a fresh jazz-inflected take to Sam Cooke's "You Send Me". The broadness of ease in Elling's range enables him to deliver a no-frills consideration of "I Only Have Eyes For You" and a totally persuasive wailing of "I'm Satisfied". The same can be said for his trumpet-like delivery of Duke Ellington-Jimmy Hamilton's "Tutti For Cootie". Elling has got a sound that satisfies and an ability to explore the past and yet create anew.