June 14, 2024

Kurt EllingKurt Elling
Man In The Air
(Blue Note – 2003)
by John Thompson

Here is a guy that is loaded with chops as a vocalist. After hearing him sing once, you will always recognize his unforgettable voice, similar to Bill Withers, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday. On this release, Elling displays his usual talents of extraordinary voice and pitch control, as well as great music support.

The musicians backing Elling are Laurence Hobgood(p/Rhodes), Rob Amster(b), Frank Parker Jr.(d/perc), Stefon Harris(v), Jim Gailloreto(ss), Paul Wertico(d), and Brad Wheeler(ssax). The music here contains several styles, tempos, and arrangements, plus some surprises. For example, the track “In The Winelight” is a sultry, finger- poppin’ version of the Grover Washington Jr. hit “Let It Flow(for Dr.J).” The music played on “The More I Have You” is Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” performed in 4/4 time, with a groove.

The title tune, “Man In The Air” has a mellow fusion feel, especially with the presence of Hobgood’s Rhodes electric piano. “A Secret I”, beautifully peformed with a tasteful solo by Harris and superb vocals by Elling, and Coltrane’s Resolution” are the more straight jazz songs. The most interesting song for me is “Minuano,” which starts out sounding like “Ave Maria,” then going into a 6/8 serious jazz feel with cool solos.

Tracks like “The Uncertainty Of The Poet” and “Higher Vibe” threw my groove for a loop. There is really good music, really good Elling, and something for all Jazz fans and maybe even classical music enthusiasts. 4 stars

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