This is a very nice album by Kurt Elling in a live setting with a string orchestra. Carefully arranged around jazz standards by his long time collaborator Lawrence Hopgood, it has an intimate feel to it reminiscent of New York back in the 50s and 60s.
Whereas Elling may be known for some wild vocal outbursts during his live recordings, on the John Coltrane-Hartman concert he remains perfectly calm appropriate to the carefully selected set of songs.
If you are looking for an artist whose sense for adventure in music combined with an incredibly smooth deep voice that is reminiscent of Sinatra but with more talent and a warmer tone, then Elling is your man.
The first album I heard by him was Flirting with Twilight, where he starts the first track with such a low single note, so unexpected, so daring yet incredibly original, it was a no brainer to me. I had to get it. It still doesn't fail to make me sit down and listen whenever I put it on.
Back to the songs of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman on the "Dedicated to you" album. Best tracks without a doubt for me "Nancy with the smiling face" and "Lush Life".
For those new to Kurt, one of his attractions is that he writes and performs poetic lyrics to instrumental solos, it's called "vocalese". For example, he will write over a Dexter Gordon track an entire story to tell that fits with the composition, or, for that matter, not at all. Along the way he never fails to throw in a lot of Elling originality.
For the curious non-jazzers, this album is a good starter, along other titles such as "Nightmoves", and the previously mentioned "Flirting with Twilight".
Oh and ps he has Ernie Watts on the tenor sax, one of today's tenor saxophone players with incredible virtuosity and soul.
I rate stars out of 10, and Kurt Elling's "sings the music of John Coltrane and Hartman" receives a well deserving eight-star rating.
Highly recommended for jazz lovers and jazz-curious novices who like original lyrics and excellent vocals with an advanced Sinatra-esque twist.
"Kurt Elling is the world’s pre-eminent male jazz vocalist. He has been awarded Best Male Singer three years in a row in both JazzTimes and Down Beat magazines. His first six albums were all nominated for Grammys, as was his latest release Nightmoves (2007)."