03/17/14 By Ken V
Two of Jazz’s Best vocalists have back to back dates at Yoshi’s San Francisco
Kurt Elling and Roberta Gambarini are not only great technical singers, but holders of the flame
Although there a many jazz vocalists performing today, there are few that can claim the level of authority and technical achievement as Kurt Elling and Roberta Gambarini. And the chance to see these two back to back at San Francisco’s premier and intimate night club is a special occasion, to be celebrated by all who treasure the vocal arts. Each has a unique style and both have the ability to perform in the language of jazz. Both are extremely knowledgeable about the music and its history. And both singers are charismatic and powerful communicators and enthusiasts.
Elling is from Chicago, and he is steeped in that city’s rich tradition of hard blowing music. His very first recording, “Close Your Eyes” on Blue Note Records, featured the Chicago tenor great, Von Freeman. The singer went on to release six albums on the label, one of the most famous in jazz. He is steeped in both the art of vocalese, as jazz vocal improvisation is called, and the tradition of composing words to and over improvised solos by instrumentalists in the music. As such he has worked up his versions of solos by Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny, among others. But what is most remarkable about Kurt is the sense of energy and drive that he imparts. This style is very different from the early years of vocal jazz, which primarily was inspired by the blues. Kurt, uses the blues at times, but his spirit is distinctly celebratory, joyous, and filled with a power and verve that is moving and real.
Roberta Gambarini is a fitting follow-up to Kurt. She was born in Turin, Italy, and began singing in jazz clubs as a teenager. She moved to the US in 1998 and immediately competed in the Thelonius Monk vocal competition, where she placed third. From there, she has continuously toured, recorded and been featured at jazz festivals around the world. Like Kurt, Roberta has a deep knowledge of and appreciation for the historic roots of jazz. When she speaks of her deep friendship with the late James Moody, for example, one feels the depth of this mentor, student relationship in a powerful way. And like Kurt, Roberta exudes a joyous love of life and music through her performances.
That two of our most accomplished singers will be in town is special in of itself. That both are such uplifting and inspiring performers, who can move audiences and dig deep into the history of jazz is something not to be missed. Is there a better way to celebrate the coming of Spring?
Yoshi’s San Francisco
1330 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA
Kurt Elling March 22-23
Roberta Gamarini March 25
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