sat 20/07/2019

CD: Kurt Elling – Passion World | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Kurt Elling – Passion World

CD: Kurt Elling – Passion World

Jazz singer's technical mastery under-utilised on lukewarm global songs

Passion World: plenty of world, but what about the passion?

Being on everyone’s list of top jazz singers isn’t always helpful. Elling’s eleventh album, a kind of musical travelogue inspired by his onerous touring schedule, is a compendium of international repertoire extending from traditional pieces such as the “Loch Tay Boat Song”, to new arrangements like “Bonito Cuba”, Elling’s adaptation of Arturo Sandoval’s melody.

The pieces are played with exquisite precision by an enviably world-class procession of instrumentalists, including Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, French accordionist Richard Galliano and the WDR Big Band. Elling himself is in lustrous vocal form, but his languorous, mahogany tone can’t help sounding a little too alike across diverse songs and cultures, compressing rather than illuminating their differences.  

Elling’s jazz reputation was partly built on extensive use of scat in great early recordings like Close Your Eyes, and his muscular vocal control is better suited to that kind of quasi-instrumental role than the velvety breathlessness of some latin repertoire. It’s questionable, also, whether the world needs another version of “La Vie En Rose”, especially a faintly German-accented one; by the time we get to Brahms’s “Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht” (better suited to Ellings’ voice than, say, the preceding track “Vocé Já Foi À Bahia”) the variety of repertoire has become queasily kaleidoscopic.

Audiences now expect world music to be authentic. Despite many exquisite technical performances, in the end Passion World sounds as if it has a touch of jet lag from all that travelling. It’s a little bloodless and altogether too comfortable, like the diary of a business-class traveller who’s never more than two feet from a complimentary glass of bubbly. The album cover shimmers blotchily like an impressionist painting: close-up it turns out to be a view of a sunset cityscape through a raindrop-spattered window. Elling needs to get out of that departure lounge and take in the street atmosphere.

Passion World sounds as if it has a touch of jet lag from all that travelling

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Average: 3 (1 vote)

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