Friday, 23 March 2018

Kurt Elling - The Questions, album review

Intoning Love and Light in Answering

The signature singing of Elling is as ever on this latest underpinned by the empathy of delivery in songs whose lyrics have universal meanings, for him as performer and us as listeners, and the tone throughout is that equal combination of aural resonance and personal understanding as well as interpretation.

Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall is such a distinctive beginning, and here Elling accentuates the poetry in that lyric by the individual pacing and pronouncement of each line,

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard

quite different to how he frames Paul Simon’s American Tune [not his first recording of this] with a grander and glorious embrace – both songs covered with vocal and felt brilliance.

His rendition of Peter Gabriel’s Washing of the Water takes on a gospel tone and delivery, and by now we also understand how these songs are the questions of the album’s title, questions asked before – clearly by this selection – but represented as poignantly relevant yet still unanswered today.

The musicianship is as sterling as ever on an Elling recording, Branford Marsalis playing sax on two tracks, sweet soprano on I Have Dreamed; John McLean providing a neat guitar break on A Secret in Three Views; Marquis Hill blowing a meditative trumpet on Endless Lawns, where all things are changed and we look for what few certainties remain in life, hopefully in love/in light as Elling intones/chants beautifully at the song’s close.

This is me after a first listen – how wonderful to know I’ll be here again throughout the day.

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