DownBeat’s The Hot Box: Passion World

DownBeat critics' capsule reviews to accompany John McDonough's full review in DownBeat's August 2015 issue.
Kurt Elling, Passion World

I was waiting for the wrong move that never came. The Björk cover was a near miss, the least casual and natural seeming, but it doesn't spoil what turns out to be a beautiful record, by far Elling's best. Even the U2 cover is lovely. A totally consolidated program, wonderful platform for his rich voice. —John Corbett

Four stars: * * * *

I'm always looking for a bit more informality from Elling, but I'm always taken with the way his attack can fortify a lyric, or an arrangement for that matter. His amble through the traditional Scottish tune “Loch Tay Boat Song” is most satisfying on this emotional travelogue. —Jim Macnie

Three stars: * * *

Elling feels compelled to create epic projects, and this is one of the better ones—an around-the-world spirit quest in several languages (elegant Portuguese, stiff Spanish, precise German, flowing French), but the strongest track is in English, a heart-on-sleeve cover of U2's “Where The Streets Have No Name.” Elling is a terrific singer and a smart, literate guy (he ends on a tune with lyrics by James Joyce), but sometimes you'd just like to hear him sing a few songs. —Paul de Barros

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