Review: Scottish National Jazz Orchestra with Kurt Elling

Just as one American, Rene Marie, realised the deep gospel-blues potential in singing Loch Lomond, so another one has confirmed The Loch Tay Boat Song's latent jazz ballad status. Because although he gave his sources – the Corries – as singers of traditional songs should, when Kurt Elling sang of finishing work and looking towards Ben Lawers he put this Perthshire gem firmly into the jazz canon. 
The ultimate mark of a great singer is believability and Elling was as unarguably convincing on the ballad as he was when bringing Somewhere, from West Side Story, into brilliantly glowing life and delivering the rather more hip jive talk of the vocalese he committed to John Scofield's Jeep On 35.
These last two examples are pertinent because they also shed light on the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra's suppleness in surrounding Elling with the gloriously sumptuous but subtle arrangement of the former and the down-home gritty grooviness of the latter.
They're a terrific fit, the singer from Chicago who knows Edinburgh well enough to recall walking across the rainy Meadows as a student, and the orchestra that can not only lend a perfect ensemble setting with the help of a magnificent team of international arrangers, but also complement Elling's thrillingly phrased, magically toned vocal adventures with superbly shaped individual features.
Elling clearly enjoys SNJO's company and turned what might have become quite chewy, philosophical links explaining the thinking behind various selections into pally professor-style monologues that formed natural extensions of items such as the fabulous orchestrated take on Paul Simon's American Tune and the thoroughly gripping jazz drama that developed from Wayne Sorter's Go.