Elling has never sounded so overtly melodic, so luminous

Kurt Elling’s eighth album, his second release for Concord Jazz, provides a beautiful commentary on the classic 1963 album John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman. Recorded live as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, Elling moves through the six-song album – seamlessly interwoven with an additional five tracks from Coltrane’s Ballads album – with reverence, urbanity and a sense of creative flight.
From the dramatic opener ‘All Or Nothing At All’ to a hauntingly atmospheric ‘Lush Life’ to an ardent ‘You Are Too Beautiful’, Elling has never sounded so overtly melodic, so luminous, as in these finely honed interpretations. The instrumental palette, subtly expanded by the inclusion of a string quartet, is exploited most effectively. Ever forward-looking, Elling stamps his own imprimatur on the date with ‘It’s Easy To Remember’, a spoken word “poetic jazz memory” where he evokes the setting of the original Coltrane/Harman recording.

If this is the album that finally garners the singer that elusive Grammy, it will be thoroughly deserved. Watch out for European dates later this year.

4 stars