DownBeat’s The Hot Box: 1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project

DownBeat critics' capsule reviews to accompany Jim Macnie's full review in DownBeat's December 2012 issue.
A loosely enforced license for Elling to tackle 11 pop gumdrops jazz has mostly ignored. A bit of hokum and much good singing. But there was a reason why jazz and pop split, and these songs help explain why the divorce papers were signed in the '60s. “Tutti” is pure vocalese, closest to the singer's métier, and farthest from the Brill Building. — John McDonough

Three stars: * * *

As we've long known, Elling's voice is one in a million; buttery, textured, infinitely capable and assured. What he does with it doesn't always thrill me, but here, stretching into some funkier terrain and less familiar material, he sounds very convincing and less unctuous than elsewhere. For the instrument alone, it's a pleasure. — John Corbett

Three and a half stars: * * * 1/2

Elling is in sterling, stentorian voice for this project, which plays out like a sort of Brechtian radio drama, both seduced by and alienated from its subject. Audaciously, the singer reinvents familiar tunes like “On Broadway,” “I Only Have Eyes For You” and “You Send Me,” which dams nostalgia while creating a sense of reverie and reverence for a commercial hub that was also a clearing house for American creativity. — Paul de Barros

Three and a half stars: * * * 1/2