The Jazzcat

Kurt Elling at Catalina Bar and Grill

by on Feb.18, 2005, under News


Slide Show

It’s dark as usual in the candle lit romanticism of Catalina Bar and Grill. Kurt Elling’s trio is on

the stage as I walk in, playing the vampish “Sanctuary”, an interlude to what is

sure to be the beginning of an extraordinary evening of outstanding jazz music.

From the rear of the club, a voice announces “Ladies and Gentleman please

welcome Blue Note recording artist, Kurt Elling!”


Up to the stage walks the cool, handsome and stylish crooner

in all black. He is quite a natural in front of an audience. I have only seen

him perform live on one song before, here in Los Angeles. Back when I used to do the over

night shift at the old 88.1 KLON FM, he was at another venue in town and I had

to go and see him. Even though I should have been sleeping before my show, I

caught one tune and his opening was just fantastic. He has been one of my

favorites ever since he hit the scene and was always a reliable source to go to

when programming a jazz radio show.


Tonight, of course is no exception. Kurt is adventurous,

courageous and a complete master of the lower register. Seamless transitions, a

poet laureate, a prolific rapper of the coolest type and quite a charmer to the

more soprano members of the audience who raise their voices in elation as Kurt

serenades them with Grover’s “Wine Light”.


I keep finding myself wanting to use the word master when

describing Kurt because he is sheer vocal perfection as he twist, morphs and

kicks some serious ass with the phrasing and clarity he displays on vocalese.

Spontaneous creative combustion is what you get when you listen to his dynamic

instrument; you can feel his throat resonate with seismic activity. A voice

that soars to the peaks and dips to the valleys like “The Man in the Air”. In

pitch, in tune and working like the finest oiled machine, Kurt can certainly be

considered a symbol of excellence!


He is by no means a, “Pop artist” but his vocal jazz styling

has popular appeal. Certainly just what we need to sway those easy listeners

over to the pure and honest side of the fence. Kurt’s voice must vibrate on the

same wave length as the inner core of our souls. Yearning and calling them to a

place where the water is warm, the air is clean and jazz is overflowing!



The trio is on! Laurence Hobgood on piano, Rob Amster on

Bass and Frank Parker on drums are wonderfully strong and equally delicate as

the foundation for an artist who can blow you away one second and caress you

back the next. Kurt pays his respect to greats such as Jon Hendrics, Keith

Jarrett, Coltrane and others in his live performances as well as on a number of

his incredible compact discs. Kurt is the cat who has what it takes. He is

funny, confident, cool, charming, charismatic and perfectly comfortable livin’

and jivin’ and diggin’ the skin he’s in. I watch in awe with never ending smiles!


He is under new management with Mary Ann Topper and sure to acheive the greatest success. Don’t miss him this

week at Catalinas.

For this and other upcoming performances at Catalina Bar and Grill, Click Here!










LeRoy Downs

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