CMJ - 7/21/03, p.29
"...Elling is more than just a jazz singer. Here, he doubles as a theorist, philosopher, improvser and interpreter when he approaches each song....Seldom is an artist's ambition matched by an equal amount of talent, but Elling truly belongs in that select group..."
Mojo (Publisher) - 10/03, p.1124 stars out of 5
- "...Another astonishing album from Elling, currently the best jazz singer around..."
Personnel: Kurt Elling (vocals); Jim Gailloreto, Brad Wheeler (soprano saxophone); Stefon Harris (vibraphone); Laurence Hobgood (piano, Fender Rhodes piano); Rob Amster (bass); Frank Parker, Jr. (drums, percussion)
Paul Wertico (drums).
Producers: Kurt Elling, Laurence Hobgood, Bill Traut.
Recorded at Chicago Recording Company, Chicago, Illinois in January 2003.
MAN IN THE AIR was nominated for the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
Adapters: Kurt Elling; Laurence Hobgood.
Personnel: Kurt Elling (vocals); Brad Wheeler (soprano saxophone); Laurence Hobgood (piano); Stefon Harris (vibraphone); Paul Wertico (drums).
Audio Mixer: Al Schmitt.
Recording information: Chicago recording Company (01/13/2003-01/17/2003).
Photographer: Jeff Sciortino.
Arrangers: Kurt Elling; Laurence Hobgood.
One of the most distinctive, forward-looking vocalists in contemporary jazz, Kurt Elling is clearly inspired by the likes of Jon Hendricks and Mark Murphy, but assimilates those influences into a strikingly unique style. Though he's done his share of standards as well as albums of original material, Elling strikes an interesting balance on MAN IN THE AIR by writing his own lyrics based around pre-existing jazz tunes (a technique pioneered by Hendricks). His spiritual/philosophical bent is apparent in many of lyrics, but they're wrapped so organically around the tunes that the seams never show.
Never a belter, Elling prefers a more intimate, communicative method, seeming to pull the notes from somewhere deep inside himself and deliver them directly to the listener with little ado. He forsakes the tropes of many scat-oriented jazz singers, though he's a strong hand at improvisation. He's also eclectic enough to dip onto the Coltrane songbook one moment and to revamp the 1960s pop classic "Never My Love" the next. Backed by a trio that's tuned in enough to match his every subtle move (and bolstered by some stellar guests), Elling pursues his singular vision with a winning combination of passion and virtuosity.