London Jazz Festival preview: Kurt Elling & Sheila Jordan
The poetic, technically-dazzling Chicago singer Kurt Elling has become a big star by jazz standards, even if a fondness for understatement, arthouse lyrics and unusual material will keep him from stardom of the Cullum/Krall kind.
His new album – 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project – is the best of his career, bringing enthralling new illumination to songs such as Sam Cooke's You Send Me and Paul Simon's An American Tune. Elling improvises like a bebopper and swings like a big-band singer, but reflectiveness comes naturally, as he told this writer last year: “Introspective cat that I am, if I can't help feeling my first duty is to be transparent, then that's going to show. There it is, that's who I am.”
Sharing this bill is another introspective performer who can nonetheless hold rooms spellbound – Sheila Jordan, the unique Detroit-raised bebop vocalist who caught Charlie Parker's ear in the early 1950s, studied with the godfather of Cool School piano, Lennie Tristano, and makes personal revelations of the most familiar songs.