Kurt Elling might have diluted the impact of this memorable session by not wanting to seem irredeemably serious (with the Coasters' "Shoppin' for Clothes," and the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday"), but there are versions of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," Carole King's "So Far Away" and Paul Simon's "An American Tune" that will go down as some of the finest ballad interpretations this awesomely equipped vocalist has ever recorded.
The concept is a celebration of the great songwriters – from Burt Bacharach to Paul Simon – who inhabited Manhattan's Brill Building. Elling brings an enraptured frankness to "You Send Me," and sings "I Only Have Eyes for You" in a kind of stunned daze. Lou Rawls' "I'm Satisfied" is a breezy organ-and-tenor-sax rocker, "So Far Away" is a delicate drifter, and "American Tune" pulses with a reverential determination.
Four stars: * * * *