Elling concert displays music and great style

Kurt Elling is nearly as good a showman as he is a singer — and that is saying plenty.
At his concerts at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Friday, Elling rolled through music that displayed his great style, range and incredible ability at creating lyrics.

But he also created a stage presence that reached out to the audience and, on his original “Late Night Willie,” created a story-like background for the song. His spoken intro set the stage for a nifty bit of jazz that dealt with all the demons out there who lead us astray.

But the show was built around his great vocal abilities, naturally. He showed that in a vocalese version of “Body and Soul,” a takeoff of Dexter Gordon’s version of the song. Then there was his “Samurai Heehaw,” which was told with stream-of-consciousness lyrics that were as impressive in their metrics as well as their words.

Pianist Laurence Hobgood was the key to Elling’s backup, leading a trio featuring bassist Harish Raghavan and drummer Ulysses Owens.