Kurt Elling – Skinner Hall, Vassar College – October 1, 2011
I kind of miss the old pre-colored-pencil days of dealing with watercolors at the concerts, so I stay alert for opportunities to get back with the wet. I’ve had good luck before at Skinner Hall, especially if I get in the front row and have some roominess in front of me. I came prepared for either medium, and got the front row, so there was no stopping me. Toots not especially happy with the seating arrangement, as it involved looking upwards to the stage and she has the disadvantage of not having my height. So the back players (especially drums & piano) not very visible to her.
I’m not sure quite who to compare vocalist Elling to; maybe in a sense Betty Carter. Instead of a distinctive style, he does a lot of little different things, he’s got the pipes and range for all of them. He started off unaccompanied for a tune, so that’s a statement right there. He lets his players stretch out, and gets around to go (literally) face-to-face with them, goading them with scat mongrelized with percussive vocal sound effects into some interesting dialogue action. Except not so much with his pianist Laurence Hobgood, who’s been with him long enough so that their rapport is second nature.
Several technical problems associated with painting remain to be solved. One is that this paper (I’m breaking it in, or vice versa) comes as a tablet pad, and the top sheet cannot be separated from the rest without running a blade around the perimeter, something I’m unlikely to do while sitting in the audience. Second, the paper has so much tooth (rough surface texture) that the autograph pen I use does not smoothly dispense ink to form the type of crisp signature that I favor, especially with some of these hasty and stylized flourishes. And the paper size is just a smidgen bigger than the scanner platen, so the illumination for the scan has got to have some unevenness (wow, what a word that turns out to be!) to deal with. It’s always something.