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Kurt ELLING – Dedicated to You (Sings Music OF Coltrane & Hartman) 2009

Posted in JAZZ, Kurt ELLING on December 26, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Kurt ELLING – Dedicated to You (Sings Music OF Coltrane & Hartman) 2009
Recorded Live at The Lincoln Center’s Lavish Allen Room.


Dedicated To You is a tribute to one of the most beloved and beautiful recordings in jazz, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. On that six song album, John Coltrane introduces a relatively unknown singer named Johnny Hartman. The two musicians had only just met one another, however in a mere three hours, they produce a classic. Hartman unfortunately never gains much recognition beyond this one album. Coltrane obviously fares a bit better.
Kurt Elling is a standout choice to honor Hartman. He boasts a rich baritone with flawless intonation and an uncanny flair for storytelling, just like Hartman before him. They’re also both from Chicago, which may be related to Elling’s interest in this project (Elling was recently named “Chicagoan of the Year” and holds down a regular night at The Green Mill when not on tour).

The supporting voice on that classic album is, of course, Coltrane. Ernie Watts, a veteran of the LA studio scene, doesn’t jump out as the obvious pick for this role. Nonetheless, he doesn’t disappoint, though at times he sounds more like Lenny Pickett than John Coltrane. But while his tone may not match the expectations of purists, his solos compliment the vocal approach of Elling perfectly.

This is not meant to be a replica of the 1963 classic. In fact, many of the tracks are from Ballads (Impulse!, 1962), another seminal Coltrane album recorded around the same time. It also doesn’t have the spare quartet sound of the original. Elling’s pianist and arranger Laurence Hobgood enlists the ETHEL string quartet to fill-out the group. This provides opportunities for a fuller orchestral feel with a few chamber interludes too.

The CD’s lone instrumental “What’s New?” receives a bit too much care (and vibrato), which when combined with strings starts to drift into the realm of ’70s-style Muzak. The track is short and soon the band is back to business with one of the most memorable songs on the original LP, “Lush Life.”

Don’t be put off by the Ink Spots-style talking in the beginning of the second track, “It’s Easy To Remember.” Elling proceeds to tell the fascinating story of the Coltrane/Hartman session. For those don’t know the album’s history, it may be surprising to learn how loose and unstructured the session really was—Hobgood likely spent a bit more time preparing for this set. It’s also poignant to hear of Hartman’s struggle to achieve prominence as a vocalist, as his fame is mostly posthumous.

Dedicated to You is a live recording from the Lincoln Center’s lavish Allen Room. The sound quality is first-rate, and the audience enthusiastic. Elling has once again shown that he’s not only a lover of this music, but a big part of its future.
By Andrew Leinhard.
Many, myself included, hold the opinion that John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman’s 1963 eponymous album is the greatest vocal jazz c.d. ever recorded. Based on this recording, one person who certainly agrees with that assessment is Kurt Elling. This is a loving tribute, a loving re-creation.

Is it as good? As they say in the opera world, “Aria kidding me??” No modern jazz or cabaret singer has the full, rich bass-baritone range of Johnny Hartman; and nobody can produce gut-wrenching sheets of sound, past or present, like John Coltrane.

Yet, if there is one male jazz singer who could do the album justice, it is Kurt Elling. But interestingly, he doesn’t use the structure of the Coltrane/Hartman or the Coltrane Ballads albums (both of which he covers here, as the original Coltrane/Hartman album was only about 30 minutes long) as a springboard for his wild vocalese, like you might expect. Instead, with pianist Laurence Hobgood’s arrangements for the “Ethel” string quartet, the c.d. takes a “classical feel,” as though this is truly classical music that deserves such treatment; and the incredibly soulful Ernie Watts is on hand, to remind us all that this, after all, was Trane’s music.

All of that sounds like a 4-star review. The reason for 5 is: Elling sings beautifully. As I noted in my review of 2007’s wonderful “Nightmoves,” he is getting more like Sinatra all of the time. I was particularly impressed by how well he was able to jump vocal registers in “Lush Life”; not many singers can do what he did here. And Hobgood and Elling have done a marvelous job in producing this c.d. It sounds wonderful, throughout.

I’m glad Kurt Elling did this tribute. I look forward to his return to the approaches he has taken on tunes such as “Tanya Jean,” “Effendi,” and “Hold Tight.”
By Rick Cornell.
Kurt Elling graciously accepted his first GRAMMY yesterday for the exquisite, tasteful, and always swingin’ “Dedicated to You.” It’s the first time since 1993 a male vocalist has taken home the golden gramaphone for Best Vocal Jazz Album. This was Kurt’s ninth GRAMMY nomination and his first win — the first of many, we hope!

If you haven’t heard this album yet, you’re in for a real treat. Kurt and his musical director and collaborator, Laurence Hobgood, have creatively and lovingly “re-imagined” the jazz classic that John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman recorded in 1963. Laurence’s arrangements are inspired. They’re joined by the great Ernie Watts on tenor, bassist Clark Sommers, drummer Ulysses Owens, and the string quartet ETHEL. “Dedicated to You” was recorded live at New York’s Lincoln Center in front of a *very* appreciative audience.

We’ve listened to this album repeatedly since it was released last summer, and it never grows old. We keep hearing new things to delight us.

Highly recommended! Buy it for yourself. Buy it for Valentine’s Day. You’ll love every minute of it!
By  P+T Johnson-Lenz.
Kurt Elling- Voice
Laurence Hobgood- Piano
Clark Sommers- Bass
Ulysses Owens- Drums
Ernie Watts- Tenor Sax (1, 4-7, 10, 12)
Corenlius Dufalo- Violin
Mary Rowell- Violin.
Ralph Farris- Viola
Dorothy Lawson- Cello
01. All or Nothing at All 6:50
02. It’s Easy to Remember (A Jazz Story Memory) 4:05
03. Dedicated to You 6:35
04. What’s New (Instrumental) 2:40
05. Lush Life 4:39
06. Autumn Serenade 3:10
07. Say It (Over and Over Again) 6:40
08. They Say It’s Wonderful 3:59
09. My One and Only Love 3:26
10. Nancy with the Laughing Face 4:56
11. Acknowledgements 0:38
12. You Are Too Beautiful 8:10
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