A globe-trotting collection featuring a large cast of players singer Kurt Elling joined by his quintet of keyboardist Gary Versace, guitarist John McLean, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Kendrick Scott with guests including trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, singer Sara Gazarek, trumpeter Till Brönner, accordionist Richard Galliano, and not one but two big bands in the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the WDR Big Band.
On the ‘Loch Tay Boat Song’ there is a fantastic solo by saxophonist Tommy Smith and Elling himself is on typically virtuosic form, taking a few risks however notably covering what turns out to an overly earnest version of U2’s ‘Where The Streets Have No Name,’ arranged by McLean. By contrast, and much better it is too, is the singer’s tackling of literary fare and interpreting the words of a James Joyce poem on ‘Where Love Is’ set to music by Irish composer Brian Byrne.
Nowhere near as compelling as Elling’s best work which for me includes Nightmoves and Dedicated to You moments to savour nonetheless crop up in unexpected places: Elling’s rendition of his own lyric set to Richard Galliano’s ‘The Tangled Road’ is one of these and the samba exuberance of ‘Você Já Foi à Bahia’ featuring a duet with singer Sara Gazarek puts its joy across. Perhaps there is just too much packed in covering too wide a spread to really breathe it all in, chunks of Brahms and Björk (the poppy ‘Who is It’) tucked in towards the end amounting to another substantial main course and dessert. SG
The UK/Ireland CD release is 8 June