Elling: Sold Out & Magical in Toronto

Kurt Elling performed one extended set a the intimate Diesel Playhouse, a sold out show, standing room only. Thankfully the organizers of the show did their best to find chairs for everyone. Audience members also shared tables and chairs so that the concert became a warm, friendly and comfortable experience.
Kurt Elling came out on stage, standing midway between his microphone and the stage left curtain, he sang to the audience, “Autumn”. Impressive was his delivery, intonation, cocky phrasing, passion and skill that captivated the audience en-masse. A singer who can test the theatre and the audience, singing without amplification and solo – this is a singer of supreme confidence, a vocalist at the top of his game and a true master of jazz vocalese.

The trio joined in for the next song and the excitement level went up a considerable amount. The drummer, Ulysses Owen Jr., the newest member of the group, was smoking, playing with serious drive and aggressive energy. Laurence Hobgood on piano, played sophisticated, clean lines with crystal clear sounds of distinction and beauty. The bassist Rob Amster pushes the rhythm along at a high energy level; he never gives pause to the flow, the pulse, a percussive beat that seems to pump, as a life giving force. The group performed “Man In The Air” from the Blue Note recording of the same name released in 2003.

Bass and vocal in a duet format that enchanted, on “Secret Journey” a ballad with emotion and passion that had the audience completely mesmerized. This is a vocalist who has it all, great chops, fantastic stage presence, a wonderful band and a feel for the music that is utterly fantastic. This guy breathes jazz. His voice is the instrument and he plays it with incredible skill. Scatting, rapping, improvising or utilizing great vocal sustain within his distinct brand of phrasing, he can do it all. Including wrapping the audience around his stage manner – the persona, the gestures, the warmth, he is a poet, a romantic, a contemporary master. Kurt Elling is also one of the most polished performers who can work an audience and a song to create a magical moment in time.

The concert, the magical performance ended too soon, even after a couple of encore numbers were performed nobody wanted this show to end. Concluding with “Night Moves” a hit from the most recent CD of the same name, released on the Concord label in 2007, it would seem the concert had come to a glorious and fitting conclusion. This concert was one of my favorite shows of 2008.