Kurt Elling in New Zealand: Double-Jointed Voice

REVIEW: Dead saxy. That’s what Eric Marienthal is, dead saxy and I daresay completely oversaxed.
He owned the first half of the show at the Globe Theatre last night, produced some wondrous work with the Wellington Jazz Orchestra, directed by Rodger Fox.

Highlight of the first set had to be Cherokee, which Marienthal described as saxes battling to the death.

He and orchestra tenor saxophonist Colin Hemmingsen were still standing at the end of the number, but it was a close thing.

Jazz like this goes beyond conversation: it’s a full-blown family debate, with everyone putting their point. It sounded fabulous, the saxophones crisp and strong.

I’ve often wondered what it would sound like if Mozart had got his mitts on a saxophone. Marienthal showed us. The first set finished on a blast: Play That Funky Music, played loud and strong, leads flipping round the orchestra, the full roar of the big band sound pinning the audience’s ears back. The Globe was a great venue; crisp acoustics, and intimate enough to really feel the vibe.

Kurt Elling brought his beautiful voice onstage for the second half of the programme. The man’s got a range of four octaves, and he used every note. Powerful, warm and moving, he gave the audience jazz standards that proved his top of the line reputation.

Nature Boy started smooth and mellow, with Anita Schwabe fluid on piano. (Killer boots, Anita.) Resolution showcased the orchestra. Listening to them, it hits home that every member is a serious musician in their own right. They put it together, and it’s magic.

The audience loved them. Elling brought Marienthal back onstage for the encore, the smooth, smooth sound of All The Way, made famous by Frank Sinatra.

No disrespect to Old Blue Eyes, but he’d’ve opened those same blue eyes if he’d heard what the guys did to that last night.

Fox and the orchestra are fundraising to go to America later this year, to record at Capitol Recording Studios in Los Angeles.