Kurt Elling, SuperBlue, Edition ***

Kurt Elling's position and deserved reputation in the firmament of the jazz singer pantheon as one, to some even the greatest, of the very finest male exponents of the art today in the same superstar league as Gregory Porter, is unassailable and …

Published: 17 Oct 2021. Updated: 11 days.

Kurt Elling's position and deserved reputation in the firmament of the jazz singer pantheon as one, to some even the greatest, of the very finest male exponents of the art today in the same superstar league as Gregory Porter, is unassailable and won't be altered by whether I or anyone else writing a review loves or does not appreciate this middling record made with guitarist Charlie Hunter and the Fonville and Harrison Butcher Brown sound. Elling is one of the greatest of all time given the long since proven infinite resource of his ability as an improviser and the richness of his classic voice. Little connects with me however on SuperBlue beyond the playfulness of Sarah Vaughan homage 'Sassy' and certainly even more interestingly the elegance of 'Endless Lawns'. Not nearly as compelling as the brilliant Secrets are the Best Stories with Danilo Pérez and a long way off the impact achieved when Don Was produced Elling on 2011 release The Gate I'm puzzled as to why this does not light me up inside as Elling usually does. Recording remotely, perhaps that's part of it (but that happens a lot these days and usually isn't a factor at all so I'm not putting much store on that element of the process). However, nonetheless while disappointed I still can't but admire this marvellous singer whatever he does and realise it's just one of those things this time around. Stephen Graham

Kurt Elling, photo: Cory Dewald

Tags: Albums and EPs

Theon Cross, Intra-I, New Soil ****

Working with vocalists is an experiment on the record (the dance-friendly track 'Play to Win' with rapper Consensus is the liveliest and most successful skirting grime). But the two-tuba summit with Theon's Sons of Kemet predecessor Oren Marshall …

Published: 16 Oct 2021. Updated: 45 days.

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Working with vocalists is an experiment on the record (the dance-friendly track 'Play to Win' with rapper Consensus is the liveliest and most successful skirting grime). But the two-tuba summit with Theon's Sons of Kemet predecessor Oren Marshall kept to last is far more interesting from a jazzhead point of view and where the record scores most in their duoplay is when Cross is able to show the massively deep resources of the the tuba through the arrangement and high production values, one player comping the other taking the melody bluesily along. A long journey but one that has taken only a few years since the excellent straightahead Fyah, Sons of Kemet gigs will be how most jazz fans go forward with Theon given heavy touring with the Shabakians coming up. But this album underlines the forward-looking Londoner's own stake at being a leader and works well with or without vocalists because it has enough variety and sufficient dynamic ideas to retain a lot of interest throughout even if you aren't into grime, dub reggae or whatever. Studio engineers may well be very impressed by the sonic quality of the album, certainly no mean feat to manipulate the sound of a tuba into this commercial place. Final word don't forget the dash and bustle of '40tude' the beats cleverly hurtling along as the yin to the stolid tuba time-keeping yang. Intra-I is out on 29 October