Kurt Elling

Concord, 2007

REVIEW BY: Elizabeth Crowder


Imagine a scene like a modern Casablanca, complete with Sam ready to play it again and cigar smoke. Insert a smooth jazz artist like Kurt Elling, whose Concord Records debut, Nightmoves, is proof he has earned his seven previous Grammy nominations and various other awards.

Elling brings us his seventh release with the same rich baritone and his signature scatting, which is reminiscent of Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble. Nightmoves is jazz at its finest, with amazing instrumentation (including Yellowjackets sax player Bob Mintzer, bassist Rob Amster and The Escher String Quartet) as well as Elling's deep and lasting voice. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Where Are You?" is haunting, reminding me of how "As Time Goes By" feels during Casablanca.  "Change Partners/If You Never Come To Me" has the same feel of desperation and loss. At the same time, Elling proves in cuts such as "Tight" and "Undun" that he has the vocals to pull off a musically challenging set.

Despite the seeming simplicity of many of these tracks, Elling adds his signature tone and rhythm to give a different feel than so much of what music has to offer in 2007. I guess that's why I love the feel of blues, jazz and acoustic music- it shows that even in the midst of a hurricane of overstimulation one can find peace.

One of my favorite parts of this album is the orchestral beginning of "The Sleepers," which I could easily fall asleep to (I mean that in a good way!). The title track gives the whole CD an almost bittersweet feel, including lyrics such as "Love is like two dreamers dreaming the exact same dream /  Just another Technicolor romance on the screen."

This kind of jazz lends itself to romantic music, including "I Like The Sunrise," which is my favorite track here. Easy piano in the background makes me want to say to Elling "Play it... Play 'I Like The Sunrise...'" as Ilsa does to Sam. Though it has the same melancholic feel as other tracks, "I Like The Sunrise" gives a cathartic twist on how each day is new: "Even if a candle is blown out by wind / the fire smolders on in an ember and then sparks again." That is hope in trial, and seeing the cup as half full even though for so long it was empty.

Elling was once called "the most flamboyantly creative jazz singer to emerge in the last decade" by the San Francisco Chronicle.  I think I disagree with this, as his music is amazingly smooth and easy to listen to, unlike many other dolled-up jazz artists. Anyone who listens to Nightmoves would agree that Elling is an artist to keep an eye on.

Rating: B

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© 2007 Elizabeth Crowder and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Concord, and is used for informational purposes only.