Branford Marsalis Quartet; special guest Kurt Elling – Upward Spiral {Okey}_24bit88kHz

Branford Marsalis Quartet; special guest Kurt Elling – Upward Spiral {Okey}_24bit88kHz

Post-Bop, Vocal Jazz

24bit/88.2kHz, FLAC tracks, Front cover + digital booklet

1,31 GB.

AllMusic Review by Matt Collar

Titans of modern jazz in their own rights, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and vocalist Kurt Elling bring their immense strengths together on their sophisticated and nuanced collaboration, 2016’s Upward Spiral. Perhaps not the first time Marsalis has showcased a vocalist on a recording, it is the first time he’s worked exclusively with one singer throughout an entire album.

While the album never feels dated or retro, it fits nicely into the tradition of vocalist and instrumentalist collaborations like 1961’s Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley and 1963’s classic John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman. Like those albums, Upward Spiral is less an album featuring a singer backed by a jazz ensemble, and more of an album that details the meeting of two highly creative artists whose talents intertwine to find new avenues of expression.

Joining in the creative process here is Marsalis’ longtime rhythm section featuring pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner. Despite the high level of mastery on display, Marsalis and Elling don’t overthink the proceedings and simply stick to a thoughtfully curated batch of covers and originals. This gives the album the feel of like-minded artists communing over a shared love and appreciation of each song.

Some cuts, like the breezy Gershwin number “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York” and the swinging, off-kilter Sonny Rollins composition “Doxy,” sound like pick-up jams chosen in the moment. Others, like Chris Whitley’s “From One Island to Another,” and the Marsalis and Elling co-write “Cassandra Song,” have a theatrical, impressionistic flow born out of the duo’s thoughtful arranging.

They split the difference on “I’m a Fool to Want You,” transforming Frank Sinatra’s torchy standard into a mournful, yet somehow still playful duet. Elsewhere, they delve into a languid melodicism on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “So Tinha de Ser Com Voce,” make room for spoken word poetry on “Momma Said,” and deliver what is certainly one of the most delicate and otherworldly readings of “Blue Velvet.”

Primarily, Upward Spiral finds Elling and Marsalis communicating through song, both of them offering tactile, well-organized performances that linger in your mind.

01. There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York (5:25)
02. Blue Gardenia (4:39)
03. From One Island to Another (6:05)
04. Practical Arrangement (9:49)
05. Doxy (3:57)
06. I’m a Fool to Want You (3:05)
07. West Virginia Rose (2:32)
08. Só Tinha de Ser Com Você (3:41)
09. Momma Said (2:46)
10. Cassandra Song (8:31)
11. Blue Velvet (3:47)
12. The Return (Upward Spiral) (7:20)
13. Long as You’re Living (bonus track) (8:45)

Branford Marsalis – saxophones
Kurt Elling – vocals
Joey Calderazzo – piano
Eric Revis – bass
Justin Faulkner – drums

Produced by Branford Marsalis
Recorded by Rob “Wacko!” Hunter
Recorded December 16-19,2015; at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans, LA
Mixed March 20-27, 2016; at Studio in the Country, Durham, NC
Mastered March 30, 2016 by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, New York, NY
Additional mastering by Steve Fallone at Sterling Sound, New York, NY
Art direction & design by Steven Jurgensmeyer
Band photos by Zach Smith Photography

2016, Marsalis Music, LLC
Under exclusive license to Sony Music Entertainment
Okey is a registered trademark of Sony Music Entertainment /

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Branford Marsalis (b. 1960)