Artist: Kurt Elling
Genres: Funk, Vocal jazz
Release Date: 2021
Country: United States
Label: Edition Records – EDN1174
Format: FLAC, (tracks + .cue)
Filesize: 269.73 MB
Official Website: Link
1. Kurt Elling – SuperBlue (04:45)
2. Kurt Elling – Sassy (04:18)
3. Kurt Elling – Manic Panic Epiphanic (05:29)
4. Kurt Elling – Where to Find It (04:50)
5. Kurt Elling – Can’t Make It with Your Brain (05:49)
6. Kurt Elling – The Seed (04:22)
7. Kurt Elling – Dharma Bums (05:58)
8. Kurt Elling – Circus (04:55)
9. Kurt Elling – Endless Lawns (06:54)
10. Kurt Elling – This Is How We Do (01:16)
The follow up to his 2020 Grammy winner Secrets Are the Best Stories, SuperBlue is a head-turning torrent of roisterous funk, indelible beats and all-too-current lyrics that boasts the talents of producer-guitarist Charlie Hunter and two stars of the hip-hop generation: drummer Corey Fonville and bassist-keyboardist DJ Harrison (both of the genre-hopping band Butcher Brown).
Elling has always been a master of grooves, ranging from bebop to pure pop and progressive jazz to neo-soul, but he’s never filled an album with grooves quite like these. On SuperBlue, the grooves are generous and bountiful and the mix is phat and vibrant, creating springboards for some of the most vivid tracks of Elling’s career. The arrangements extend the singer’s already remarkable range and expand his role as a gifted storyteller, adept at both hipster humor and soul-shattering pathos.
SuperBlue, continues Elling’s path of bold collaboration on a project guaranteed to gain new listeners and stretch the ears of his devoted admirers.
A collaboration with guitarist Charlie Hunter, SuperBlue finds vocalist Kurt Elling exploring a sophisticated funk and soul sound. Hunter, who plays here and also produced the album, is primarily known for his fusion-informed jazz and adventurous, funk-influenced projects like Garage a Trois. However, he has also made significant contributions to albums by forward-thinking neo-soul and R&B artists, including D’Angelo and Frank Ocean. It’s this deep grasp of those funky, groove-oriented vibes that he brings to his work with Elling on SuperBlue. Also contributing are Butcher Brown bandmates drummer Corey Fonville and bassist-keyboardist DJ Harrison, who bring their own hip-hop sensibilities to the proceedings. The ensemble initially began sharing tracks and musical ideas online while in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventually, Elling and Hunter met up in an Illinois barn turned studio to add vocals and guitar to the arrangements. Despite the implied difficulty of the process, SuperBlue is one of Elling’s most sleek and relaxed recordings, bringing together some of the beat poetry-influenced spoken word of his early work with the warm, lyrical vocal swagger he’s known for. Cuts like the title track, “Manic Panic Epiphanic,” and “Can’t Make It with Your Brain” are fluidly engaging jams that marry Elling’s burnished lyrical flow with Hunter’s knack for kinetic grooves. We also get a dusky reworking of “Endless Lawns,” originally recorded on 2018’s The Questions. If the earlier version already evoked the romantic ’70s soul of Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, this version magnifies the influence as Hunter frames Elling in slow-burning organ and supple bass accents. SuperBlue certainly straddles the line between electric jazz fusion and groove-based neo-soul, with a heavy leaning toward the latter. While there are some superb solo moments here from Hunter, not to mention dazzling sections of vocal gymnastics by Elling, the focus is less on post-bop improvisation and more on a song’s overall vibe. For Elling and Hunter, the choice feels purposeful and right for the funky, organic nature of these songs. SuperBlue is an ebullient and creative production that further underlines Elling’s dynamic and endlessly adaptable vocal skills, regardless of genre. – Review by Matt Collar