Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Debut album on OKeh records from the legendary jazz singer. The first Kurt Elling holiday album.
Kurt Elling's first holiday album, The Beautiful Day, is truly beautiful and festive in a swinging way! Elling sings these classic Christmas and popular holiday songs with an ease and confidence proving once more that he is the best jazz singer of our time. The first track, "Sing a Christmas Carol," swings lightly and gets you into the feel of the album and puts you in a jazzy holiday mood. Elling's versions of "We Three Kings" and "Same Old Lang Syne" exude cool as he makes these Christmas favorites truly his own. "Beautiful Day" is the perfect ending for an album that's destined to be a holiday jazz classic.
Grammy® winner Kurt Elling is among the world's foremost jazz vocalists. He won the DownBeat Critics Poll for fourteen consecutive years and was named Male Singer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions. An international jazz award winner, the New York Times declared, "Elling is the standout male vocalist of our time." The Washington Post added, "Since the mid-1990s no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling. He has come to embody the creative spirit in jazz."
New York Times
Kurt Elling is the standout male vocalist of our time.
Personnel: Kurt Elling (percussion); John McLean (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Stuart Mindeman (piano, Hammond b-3 organ, electric keyboard).
Audio Mixers: Vijay Tellis-Nayak; Bryan Farina; Steven Rodby.
Recording information: Audio Paint Recording, New York, NY; Transient Sound Studio, Chicago, IL.
Editors: Vijay Tellis-Nayak; Bryan Farina; Steven Rodby.
Photographer: Elliot Mandel.
A poetic and lyrical holiday-themed album, vocalist Kurt Elling's The Beautiful Day is much more than a seasonal production. The album follows up his eclectic 2015 album, Passion World, and arrives on the heels of his collaboration with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, 2016's Upward Spiral. Here, Elling applies his urbane sensibilities and warm baritone to a set of thoughtfully curated traditional songs reworked in his own sophisticated, harmonically rich fashion. However, as his first ever holiday-themed effort, Elling chose to sidestep the usual cull of Christmas songs and instead picked pieces that are lesser known, or more subtle in tone. The result is a production that is as literate and full of new discoveries as his previous studio albums. Helping Elling achieve this is an adept ensemble of longtime and more recent associates including guitarist John McLean, pianist Stuart Mindeman, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Kendrick Scott, as well as saxophonist Jim Gailloreto, trumpeter Tito Carrillo, cellist Jill Kaeding, and percussionist Kalyan Pathak. Working as statement of purpose, Elling kicks things off with a soaring version of Leslie Bricusse's "Sing a Christmas Carol," from the 1970 musical film Scrooge. Elling transforms the classical-leaning choral number into a flowing, contemporary jazz anthem, coyly amending the intro with a quick medley of well-known holiday themes. He then shifts gears, offering the first of three recurring interludes based on the classic "Good King Wenceslas" carol. Atmospheric and centered on Elling's wordless vocalizations, the "Wenceslaus" interludes ground the album in a palette of winter-toned calm. Elsewhere, Elling offers a haunting, crystalline reading of the traditional "We Three Kings," smiles his way through a New Orleans second-line take of "Little Drummer Boy," and applies his longstanding knack for setting spoken word to music with "The Michigan Farm," which features his evocative lyrics framed by composer Edvard Grieg's "Cradle Song, Op. 41/1." While artful complexity is one of Elling's distinctive traits, he is also an adroit crooner, as evidenced here by his soulfully buoyant take on Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" and his heartfelt performance of Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne." Also adding to the tender emotion of the album is Elling's daughter, Luiza Elling, who duets with her father on the title track. Ultimately, with The Beautiful Day, Elling has crafted an album that evokes the holiday spirit in all of its wondrous complexity. ~ Matt Collar