Kurt Elling is at the top of his game

Chris Vasquez and I went to see Kurt Elling perform tonight in Santa Cruz.  He was incredibly good, as I expected based on seeing him at the Monterey Jazz festival a couple years ago and from live recordings.

Elling was not born with the most beautiful or unique voice, but what he does with it is remarkable.  He sings with energy, subtlety and amazing dexterity, often creating melodic and rhythmic lines that work with the rest of the band like an instrumental soloist – as opposed to a vocalist.  He has a very sophisticated approach to singing and he makes things that are very difficult to perform sound effortless.  I think he’s the best male jazz vocalist alive.

In addition to his vocal talents, Elling is an intriguing and stimulating lyricists too.  He works out extended vocal solos with streams of words and poetry that unveil his personal perspectives, beliefs, humor and emotion.  In other words, he puts a lot of himself into his work, but you need to hear how he weaves these thoughts with the music lines to appreciate his immense creative power.

One of my favorite songs of his is “Leaving Again/In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning” from the Nightmoves album.  In this song he puts lyrics to an improvisation recorded by Keith Jarrett.  Truly inspired work.   Here is a video from an appearance he made on Swedish TV4 in October 2007 singing this song,  followed by an interview.  The video incorrectly identifies the song as “Where are you my love?”  The song “Where are you” is on the album, but its a different song.  Regardless, I’m thankful that this video exists.

My big rolling digital accessory

Car deals are pretty good right now with the meltdown and the credit conundrum screwing everything up.  So me – being a pretty cheap guy – went out to by a car.  I like the idea of savng gas money, but hybrids are not being discounted much so I started to look for decent mileage in a mid size sedan – accord, camry, sonata, malibu, legacy, etc.

The last car I thought I would check out was anything made by Ford.  I just didn’t think they were doing anything interesting except making wide-ass SUVs and trucks.  But the discounts offered in the Mercury News were huge, so I thought I should go in case I was missing something.  And I was, like usual.

I am a tech-geek of sorts.  I don’t have an iPhone – just a regular iPod and a Motorola Z3 with bluetooth.  But both of them work like a charm with the Sync system in the Focus and Fusion.  I’m also an audio-whacko and do most of my listening behind the wheel because I can crank it up there past the threshold of Gretchen’s pain.  I was instantly in love with the ability to talk to my car to hear the music I want on demand (much faster than scrolling the iPod’s interface) and calling people without having to turn down or pause the audio (it does that automatically) and having to wear my hands free earpiece.  Yo, and I was pleased to find out that I can plug in a USB stick with MP3s and it plays them without having a player like an iPod.

The Audiophile sound system Ford offers is very nice – I like it much better than the JBL sound system in our Highlander – which is overly punchy in the low end.  It doesn’t quite measure up to the custom stereo in my Jetta, but its still big, huge and beautiful. The control options with Sync puts it way over the top.

I ended up buying a Fusion from Gilroy Ford.  They were real easy to work and negoitiate with.  I’ve had the car now for just a few days, but I’m really loving it. MIleage is pretty good because its a 4 banger and its a very clean buring engine.  The ride is fine and it seems to want to go down the freeway as fast as I want to.   4 wheel disk brakes, power-adjustable drivers seat, power windows. It doesn’t have sports options like the spoiler and oversized wheels like so many of the big audio cars that are in dealer inventory, but I didn’t want to pay for that stuff anyway.  All I want to do is talk to my car and get instant satisfaction.