Napster review: The Gate

Let’s just put it out there: This dude is smooth. Yes, Kurt Elling’s a jazz singer—and an exceptionally broad-minded one at that—and yes, this is a “jazz” record, but don’t get caught up in the labels. This is one jazzist who knows and enjoys the virtues of subtlety and restraint, and that adds up to a good time for the ears.
He’s more crooner than belter here, but that doesn’t quite get it; his delivery is earnest and thoughtful, but comes off almost effortlessly cool. We even think we sometimes hear a quality in his voice reminiscent of Boz Scaggs in “We’re All Alone” or “Harbor Lights” mode, and that’s a fine thing.

And besides all that, this time out Elling has chosen to unfurl an especially eclectic array of colorful material with which to do his smooth sailing: King Crimson’s “Matte Kudesai,” Joe Jackson’s “Stepping Out,” Herbie Hancock’s “Come Running to Me,” Lennon/McCartney’s “Norwegian Wood” (with an especially funky guitar interlude), Earth, Wind & Fire’s “After the Love Has Gone,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady,” each arranged with understated imagination, plus a couple of originals that add to the soulful, gripping mix. We love this kind of eye-opening variety, where the disparate becomes warmly compatible. We also love the multitracked vocal sections. This set is moody, atmospheric, occasionally exotic, and consistently gripping.