As he's proven over the years with area concerts from the Van Dyck to Tanglewood, Kurt Elling is one helluva jazz singer. But if you needed a reminder, he was in concert at The Egg in Albany on Sunday, and it may very well have been his best Local 518 performance yet.
Really, who else is likely to slip a song with lyrics by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke ("The Waking") in between a couple of golden oldie pop gems like Carole King's "So Far Away" and an oh-so-dramatic deconstruction of the Drifters' "On Broadway"?
Who else opens their show with a subtle, understated glide through "Come Fly With Me" that completely undermines Sinatra's bold, brassy, hard-hitting signature rendition?
And who else closes their show with a bossa nova love ballad – Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Luiza" – sung in Portuguese?
Let's not forget the Sammy Davis Jr. impersonation…
Then there's the more free-form kind of surreal hipster adventure like "Samuari Cowboy":
"You dig /everything in life / everything you've seen
Everywhere you've been / you have been thinking all of the time
Everything that's happened to you / has been made or construed to brood
At least passively in the life of the mind
You dig / memory is such / nothing gets away
Everything you touch / finds a place / deep inside your inner clutch
And it seems gigantical scenes / pouring in from your outer dreams
Wrinkle mental stuff in your own skully hutch
And once you think it / naught you can do to stop / you've simply got to cop
Nevertheless the thought can really wig you
Like sometimes I'll / go for a run / there's nothing I expect to run to
When all of the sudden the thought begins / a feeling like in my brain there lives an alien / And it gets funky then
Then I think / maybe I am just a little man in a space capsule
Riding 'round in a balloon / deep down inside my head"
Oh yeah, as Elling told the faithful on Sunday, "It proves the old adage – you're only as sexy as the music you listen to."
Backed by his ace quartet – pianist and longtime musical director Laurence Hobgood, drummer Quincy Davis, stand-up bassist Clark Sommers and guitarist John McLean – Elling was a most delightful musical adventure, vocally swooping over, under, around and through the melodies of such gems as "I Only Have Eyes for You" and Doc Pomus' doo-wop heartbreaker "Lonely Avenue' (as the first encore of the night).
Oh yes, the man can sang…
Greg Haymes' review at The Times Union
An excerpt from David Singer's review at The Daily Gazette: "[Elling] and the band cooked on a straight-up swing version of 'Satisfied.' Elling took the first solo on this one, showing the dexterity of his voice and the skill of his scatting — creative syllables, wild speed, circular concepts and an ability to drive the band. He is a hard-working, phenomenal soloist who could rival the power and range of any horn with his voice. While he filled the night with a lot of different styles, it seemed the sweet spot for him and his band were these traditional swing tunes. We didn't get many of them unfortunately."
KURT ELLING SET LIST
Come Fly With Me
You Send Me (Sam Cooke)
So Far Away (Carole King)
On Broadway (The Drifters)
I Only Have Eyes for You (the Flamingos)
Golden Lady (Stevie Wonder)
Lonely Avenue (Doc Pomus)