Fans of Kurt Elling have long known that his recordings, as clever and well-orchestrated as they might be, don't quite match up to the power and charm of his live performances. Years of holding court at the Green Mill and other Chicago clubs are what really have brought Elling his most devoted followers, so it is exciting to see that Blue Note's new Elling album is a document of three special nights spent recording at the legendary Uptown jazz club. And indeed, with a few small exceptions, the album shows off Elling at his best – loose, uninhibited, creative, and solid. His standard backing trio has never been tighter and more balanced, and the performance of pianist (and Elling collaborator) Lawrence Hobgood really shines.
Passion World is the fifth Concord album (and eleventh overall) from vocalist Kurt Elling, living up to its title on both counts. It is indeed his most "worldly" album to date, as Elling casts his net far and wide, from Brazil to Ireland, Germany to France, Scotland to Cuba to Iceland. Guests include the brilliant veteran trumpeter Cuban émigré Arturo Sandoval; the widely lauded young vocalist Sara Gazarek; German trumpet star Till Brönner; French accordion virtuoso Richard Galliano; the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the world-renowned WDR Big Band and Orchestra from Germany.