Concert review: Kurt Elling/Richard Galliano/SNJO
In less than a decade of UK appearances, the Chicago jazz vocalist Kurt Elling has ascended from intimate performances for a handful of people to the standing ovation he received at the Barbican. An imaginative bill partnered him with sublime French accordionist Richard Galliano and the powerful Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, and the singer hurtled through it all with more heart, musicality and technique than he has probably ever packed into a British gig.
The first half partnered him with long-time collaborator Laurence Hobgood leading a piano trio, later augmented by the bluesy guitarist John McLean, Galliano’s light-stepping accordion, and the soulfully Coltranesque tenor sax of Tommy Smith.
Elling and Hobgood showed their go-for-it intentions from the opening swinger, Steppin’ Out. The former’s hipster-poetry lyrics and circuitous melody to Samurai Cowboy triggered a McLean solo just as devious, then Galliano helped Elling take the Brazilian love song Estate from wistfulness to incandescence, and Smith hurled a boiling multiphonic tenor solo into the singer’s balefully soulful version of Resolution.
Nature Boy, massaged by rich, big-band harmonies, turned into jubilantly jabbering scat and a searing bop trumpet solo from Ryan Quigley. Ideas tumbled from the French star and McLean on a staccato Norwegian Wood, Elling ingeniously buried the opening of More Than You Know in a ducking, diving, mumbling diversion that endlessly delayed arrival on the keynote, and Smith and the singer swapped frantic free-jazz banter at the close. Elling, who can cut an enigmatic figure sometimes, looked moved by the whole event.