“Passion World” at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival
For Cheltenham he had contributed to Friday Night Is Music Night and had taken part in the late night jam session at Hotel du Vin, but this was a chance to spend an hour with Kurt and his band. For his last project Elling had chosen to concentrate on one building – the Brill in New York and its songwriters; now he is taking on the world, specifically a Passion World.
The Chicagoan singer likes to weave stories and this set took a young American in search of love around the world. It gave Kurt the opportunity to sing a mix of standards – he started with Come Fly With Me (there's nothing like meeting the Sinatra comparison head on) and encored with La Vie En Rose – other people's compositions – Lennon/McCartney's Norwegian Wood, Jobim/Hendricks' No More Blues and an Anna Maria Jopek tune and some – Richard Galliano's Billie – with new Elling lyrics added to existing tunes.
In the process he sang in English, Spanish, Polish and French – though I am no judge of his pronunciation it all sounded pretty convincing.
This was also a chance to hear a new Elling band. Gone and still mourned by many is pianist Laurence Hobgood; in his place is Gary Versace, and the keyboard area of the stage is expanded to include a Hammond next to the Grand and a Melodica resting on top of it. Both new instruments were put to good use and if Versace doesn't quite have Hobgood's heightened lyricism he certainly knows how to groove.
The trip around the world was lovely but it was back home that the band reached its hard-swinging zenith: a version of I'm Satisfied that was the very epitome of good times. Elling remains in a class of his own and leads a Rolls-Royce of a band.