Kurt Elling ‘1619 Broadway. The Brill building project’ (Concord) 4/5

Chicagoan Kurt Elling has devoted his latest album project to an exploration of the music that was composed in one of America’s most prolific and instantly recognisable song factories, the Brill building in New York. Accompanied by his trusted arranger and pianist Laurence Hobgood with John McLean on guitar, Kendrick Scott on drums and percussion, there are some interesting additions to the personnel, not least bassist Christian McBride turning up not in his usual capacity, but as a distinctive hipster voice while reedist Ernie Watts adds some fiery solo and ensemble work .’Ol Blue Eyes himself Frank Sinatra immortalised the song ‘Come fly with me’, but Elling’s interepretation is taken at a slower tempo with lovely use of horns and this must surely rate as one of the finest alternative versions out there. A nice departure from the rest of the album is the mid-tempo groove of ‘I’m satisfied’ with a hammond organ solo and the soulful tenor of Ernie Watts. This writer would like to hear a whole album in this vein. Street dialogue features on a pared down take on ‘On Broadway’ which makes a nice contrast with the George Benson version. Only the take on Carole King’s ‘So far away’ is not wholly convincing. A faithful rendition of ‘A house is not a home’ is probably the album’s strongest ballad while the Sam Cooke evergreen ‘You send me’ receives an unusual time signature and guitar riff that is impressive. While one looks forward to hearing Elling perform some of his own songs again for just a little of his eclecticism has been lost here, within the confines of the song format herein the singer fully achieves his aim of stamping his own authority on the repertoire, breathing new life into the classics and that is some accomplishment. Tim Stenhouse

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