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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(5 star). See all 13 reviews
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 March 2011
This album sees Kurt Elling on top form vocally and paired with a name producer from the pop/rock world in Don Was. So this combination sees Elling tackling more popular material, which in other hands might be seen as an attempt at crossing over to a bigger market - but he remains true to his Jazz roots and this music has always been about interpreting the popular music of the day through an improvisor's sensibility.

Elling has a great band here from the top rank of the Jazz world - bass player John Patitucci is a band leader/composer in his own right and sideman in Wayne Shorter's quartet. Bob Mintzer is one of the most experienced around and Elling's regular collaborator Laurence Hobgood, contributes some great piano playing and clever arrangements.

The album starts with an unusual choice of a King Crimson song from one of their most intense periods - but this is a suprisingly gentle ballad - handled with incredible sensitivity. Then we are into more popular material in Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" which sounds better for a walking bass line replacing the ostinato of the original. The band go through several key changes and altered chords, while Elling explores depths that were hardly apparent.

We are now into the two aspects of this album which seem at odds - so we have a great improvising band, which pulls tunes apart and toys with them. But also Elling overdubs vocals to create harmonies - like a choir at times - which must have taken a lot of arrangement and thought. This makes for a unique sound which is something I have never heard before and at times, truly amazes!

Elling's voice is so perfect - his pitching and timing seems uncanny - to be able to do this over and over again in overdubs that blend perfectly is a great technical achievement. But it all works and fits in.

Many tracks benefit from this treatment, although Miles' Blue in Green benefits from simplicity and stillness - while the overdubbed vocals take over completely in "Samurai Cowboy" with just Sax adding to the mix. I also love how Norwegian Wood moves effortlessly into a "Fusion" style groove with a rocking guitar solo.

The last track - NightTown, Lady Bright is clearly Elling's "Labour of Love" and tribute to Duke Ellington - but the stand-out track for me was Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady". Not many vocalists are brave enough to tackle Stevie, but this adds to the original and it's played as a Jazz standard - with great work from the band and Elling supremely confident throughout.

I was really surprised at how good this album is and it has Jazz integrity, intelligent arrangments, great playing and singing as well as things that will astonish and delight - highly recommended!
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on 17 September 2013
Kurt Elling. A real pro. He wouldn't get far on X-factor. This is a lesson on how to do numbers that have been done before but do them so that they sound new. And John McLean, a little known but brilliant guitarist (was in Patricia Barber's band and may still be) - his solo in Norwegian Wood is tremendous and totally unexpected. For me, it's the high spot of the album, but all of it is top notch.
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on 9 May 2011
Answer - 2 Kurt Ellings! "The Gate" is my first foray into KurtEllingtonia and is an elegant introduction to the multiple grammy-nominated singer. The 2 Ellings is a reference to the multitracking of his voice on several of the tracks, so in effect he is harmonising with himself, and is apparently responsible for the vocal arrangements.

The choice of material proves Elling's penchant for navigating the aesthetic tightrope less well followed. This is a collection where a plangent cover of Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" exists side by side with a sensitive rendition of King Crimson's "Matte Kudasi", a tour de force version of the Bill Evans composition "Blue in Green" and a nod to Herbie Hancock with an ethereal "Come Running to Me" - the last 2 displaying the tight descanting of parallel vocal lines.

There are a couple of tracks that haven't as yet totally won me over, but I'm sure that both "Samurai Cowboy" and his tribute to Duke Ellington "Nighttown Lady Bright will eventually resonate as jazz classics.

All in all, I would definitely recommend "The Gate" to anyone who likes to take risks in music, just like Kurt Elling takes risks in not only his choice of material, but also in the way he interprets these songs. In some ways, the risk is mitigated with the proficiency of the backing and mention must be made of the contribution from pianist & musical director Laurence Hobgood. Make it part of the soundtrack for your next dinner party & wait for the reactions!
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on 9 April 2013
Mr Kurt Elling with his amazing voice. The CD oozes style and class. Pure perfection. Jazz at its best. Buy it and be enchanted.
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on 3 February 2017
Kurt Elling demonstrates his versatility so well on this great album. I recommend this to anyone one, jazz fan or not.
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on 17 August 2016
Great, smooth cocktail hour Jazz.
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on 15 September 2015
Excellent album
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