Albums

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Vocal Jazz - Released April 27, 2018 | Legacy Recordings

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Vocal Jazz - Released April 14, 2018 | Ideal Music

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Vocal Jazz - Released April 6, 2018 | Verve Reissues

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Vocal Jazz - Released March 23, 2018 | Okeh - Sony Masterworks

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Continuing the fruitful creative partnership that began with 2016's Upward Spiral, vocalist Kurt Elling once again pairs with saxophonist Branford Marsalis for the lyrical, ruminative 2018 effort The Questions. Joining them are pianist Joey Calderazzo, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, guitarist John McLean, pianist Stu Mindeman, bassist Clark Sommers, and trumpeter Marquis Hill. As the title implies, the album finds Elling in deeply contemplative mood, delving into songs rife with existential themes of human suffering, and the hope for a better world. While that may sound like a serious-minded slog, it never gets bogged down. Rather, this is a well-curated set of songs, done in Elling's usual sophisticated, literate, and uplifting style. Instead of playing standards here (though the album ends on an inspired reading of Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer's "Skylark"), Elling and Marsalis (who also produced) move toward songs that are further afield of the jazz tradition. There is a poetic quality to many of the song choices that reflect Elling's longstanding love of spoken word, beginning with his soulful opening rendition of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's-a-Gonna Fall." Moving from a spare, soulful a cappella intro to a wave-like full-band arrangement, the song works to set the album's overall tone of thoughtful, existential questioning. Similarly engaging are his takes on Paul Simon's "American Song" and his subdued, gospel-inflected version of Peter Gabriel's "Washing of the Water." As with many of his past albums, he also adds his own literary spin to several pieces, including taking Carla Bley's sweetly attenuated piece "Lawns" and combining it with his own lyrics, and a poem by writer Sara Teasdale, turning it into "Endless Lawns." Similarly, he adds lyrics to Jaco Pastorius' instrumental "Three Views of a Secret," drawing inspiration from the work of 13th Century poet Rumi and transforming the song into his own "A Secret in Three Views." Musically, while the core of The Questions sounds like an acoustic jazz album, the overall sound is much more of a hybrid, weaving in elements of contemporary folk, classical, Latin, and even new age. That said, there are certainly stellar bits of improvisation, including a warm, harmonic flügelhorn solo from Hill on "Lonely Town," and a spiraling soprano sax section from Marsalis on "I Have Dreamed." Ultimately, all of this works to frame Elling's textured, highly resonant vocals and heartfelt message. As he sings on "Skylark," "Haven't you heard the music in the night? Beautiful music." ~ Matt Collar
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Vocal Jazz - Released March 23, 2018 | Okeh - Sony Masterworks

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It doesn’t look like it, but isn’t Kurt Elling the best jazz singer of his generation? The idea of any competition, or any ranking, is obviously ludicrous, not to say stupid, but it is evident that album after album, the singer from Chicago pursues a journey that is almost flawless. In 2015, with Passion World, Elling revisited Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht taken from Brahms‘ Liebeslieder, but also pieces penned by U2, Pat Metheny, Björk, not forgetting La Vie en rose and even a poem by James Joyce! For this eleventh album that is as eclectic as possible, he abandoned his acrobatics, that only he knows the secrets of, for a more languorous and sensual style, a singing that he delivered with a lot of sophistication. His range of expression, as well as the impressive accuracy of his enunciation, is once again on the menu of a feast of covers that is just as perfect. With The Questions, Kurt Elling tackles this time Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Jaco Pastorius, Leonard Bernstein, Carla Bley, Johnny Mercer and a few others. Produced by saxophonist Branford Marsalis, this twelfth opus gathers pianist Joey Calderazzo, drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, guitarist John McLean, organ player Stu Mindeman, trumpet player Marquis Hill and bass player Clark Sommers. It’s a fine selection of virtuosos in the service of a singer that manages to impose his style and the roundness of his voice, even on classics that have been covered by everyone on earth like Skylark. It is classy, and already a classic. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Vocal Jazz - Released February 7, 2018 | Resurfaced Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released December 1, 2017 | Verve Reissues

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True fans of Ella Fitzgerald must be having a hard time trying to find storage space for the live albums of their idol, since there are so many of them. And yet, this one, completely new, is rather special as it proposes a concert offered in Hollywood’s Zardi’s Jazzland on 2nd February, 1956 - a few days before she recorded her first disc for Verve. Originally recorded by Norman Granz to celebrate this signature on his label, these two sets will in the end remain in the archives to the detriment of Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Song Book, a studio disc that would launch her series of albums devoted to the songbooks of the great American authors… In this year 1956, Ella Fitzgerald is almost 40 already and is far from being unknown. But her transition from Decca to Verve would finally propel her into a completely new level of fame. We hear her here full of exuberance, joy and energy. Her voice is astoundingly fluid, and her sense of rhythm is difficult to surpass. And even when she forgets part of the text, the great entertainer that she is takes over and the adoration from the audience doesn’t waiver one bit. As for her repertoire, she makes the masterpieces her own, penned by Duke Ellington (In A Mellow Tone), Cole Porter (My Heart Belongs To Daddy), Jerome Kern (A Fine Romance) and the Gershwin brothers (S'Wonderful, I've Got a Crush On You). As for the disciples to this voice, we find the pianist Don Abney, bass player Vernon Alley and drummer Frank Capp - all impeccable bodyguards, even if later, musicians of a completely different level will assist the singer. It’s very touching to hear, in the first seconds of the disc, Norman Granz tell the Californian audience: “For me she’s the greatest there is: Miss Ella Fitzgerald!” © MZ/Qobuz
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Vocal Jazz - Released June 18, 2007 | Capitol Records

A reasonable sampler featuring several Wilson hits from the '60s and '70s. Although it's impossible to fully convey the depth of her career from one album, this set at least didn't skimp on the jazz and blues numbers that earned her her reputation. ~ Ron Wynn
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 25, 1960 | Capitol Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released July 30, 1956 | Capitol Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released December 28, 1955 | Decca

Jeri Southern's second Decca session strips her music of pretense and artifice in favor of an unflinching honesty that crawls deep under the listener's skin. With its austere rhythmic backdrops and melancholy textures, The Southern Style casts a stark spotlight squarely on Southern's intimate vocals, and she responds with some of the most deeply felt performances of her career -- the nuance and depth she invests in songs like "One Day I Wrote His Name Upon the Sand" and "I Don't Know Where to Turn" are nothing short of remarkable. This is a record made for and by adults, articulating emotions and delineating experiences lost on the young. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Vocal Jazz - Released May 5, 2017 | Verve

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What better way of making a new record than surrounding yourself with new collaborators? That was the idea that Youn Sun Nah had for She Moves On. Four years after Lento, the Korean singer has taken on a close-knit group comprising John Zorn, Jamie Saft on the piano, the Hammond organ, the Fender Rhodes and the Wurlitzer (he also produced the record), and Brad Jones on the bass alongside drummer Dan Rieser, who worked with Norah Jones in Little Willies. But it is above all the presence of the guitarist Marc Ribot on five of these eleven tracks that draws attention. Surrounded by these four strong personalities, Youn Sun Nah explores a fairly varied repertoire that owes as much to rock as to folk, to rhythms as to lyrics, taking in covers of Joni Mitchell (The Dawntreader), Paul Simon (She Moves On), Lou Reed (Teach The Gifted Children), Jimi Hendrix (Drifting with a searing solo from Ribot) or the traditional Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair. Three original compositions, Traveller, Evening Star and Too Late, complete this album which is resolutely inspired by American music and which presents her impressive voice in a context which rightly recalls Norah Jones, or Melody Gardot. But Youn Sun Nah's vocal personality is strong enough that she never seems to be stepping on her illustrious sisters’ toes, and she offers, from the outset, a record that is all her own. © MD/Qobuz
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 20, 2017 | Concord Jazz

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Vocal Jazz - Released November 30, 2016 | Vocal Classics

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Vocal Jazz - Released November 30, 2016 | Vocal Classics

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Vocal Jazz - Released September 13, 1965 | Istjdigital

Vocal Jazz - Released March 25, 2016 | Harbinger Records

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Vocal Jazz - Released October 23, 2015 | Okeh

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Vocal Jazz - Released September 25, 2015 | RPM Records - Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica - Grammy Awards

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Vocal Jazz in the magazine