Kurt Elling

Released August 28, 2001

Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Vocal Album 2002

YouTube: https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=ilnDW0967pk&list=OLAK5uy_mgoT0UAOskw-jhV3bMsFMI0MCj5yfT9GE

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/0eMgf6ydxMDMjoSQXDyQwn?si=1QccSV2xTEaM3XYFnexZzQ


The prize for ingenuity on FLIRTING really belongs to Laurence. The side is defined by the arrangements he created — a sound he invented (or at least reinvented). It was Laurence who heard what was possible for voice, rhythm section and three horns and it was Laurence who wrote it all down. In that spirit, here is Laurence to give his own account of what happened…

Kurt Elling

I still tell people that making this record may have been the experiential highlight of my career to date.

The experience started with the crafting of the arrangements. Kurt and I worked totally in tandem at first; as always, I wanted to sculpt the arrangements around what he wanted to do. The three-horn configuration was new territory for us, though, presenting extra challenges not just in terms of molding everything to Kurt, but also the desire to achieve a balance between a “classic” sound and modern rhythmic and harmonic shapes. The results demanded, among other things, that the horn players we would use had to be both highly skilled soloists and seasoned section players; the parts are very independent and, with only three, each had to be capable of being very strong and sensitive and yielding at the same time.

As we worked, we both seemed to trust the direction the arrangements were taking. By the time I was doing the last couple of arrangements Kurt was trusting enough to let me work on my own (by that time his hands were officially full with other things.)

Then came the recording itself. What can I say? We had one of the greatest engineers who ever lived in Al Schmitt, we were in Capitol Studio One where Sinatra, Nat Cole, Streisand and many others had laid down legendary tracks. I was not only getting to play with two of my rhythm section heroes, Peter Erskine and Marc Johnson, but, to a great extent – because of the arrangements – I was directing the proceedings. It was a bit dizzying, but on a little break the first day Peter said some very supportive things — he loved the arrangements, our plan of attack, everything was cool.

We tracked for two days with just Kurt and the trio. I may have had my hands full but it didn’t escape me how great Kurt sounded. This record definitely represented the most minimal involvement on his part of anything we’d done but his soaring, gorgeous voice brought light and meaning to everything we were playing.

And then, on the third day, the horns came in to lay down all of their parts in one day. We’d pre-tracked everything except the ballad medley, which had rubato sections and had to be tracked live with everybody.

Up to this point I’d only heard the horn parts in my head and you can’t know how nerve-racking it was to have to wait until that day, afraid that, even though the basic arrangements performed by the rhythm section sounded great, the added horn parts would be full of bad choices, clashing rhythms, downright mistakes and God knows what else.

As the day unfolded I think it’s fair to say that everyone was increasingly excited at what we were hearing. Peter and Marc graciously stayed around in case something in their parts needed attention but it never did. I’ll never forget standing out in the main room, conducting the horns on “Not While I’m Around”, and, looking into the control room, seeing Bill Traut with this huge grin on his face.

It was still a very long day; at about the ten hour point I went up to Bob Sheppard and said, “Hey man, I’m just checking in – I know it’s been a long one but we’ve still got a couple things to do.” He looked at me and said, “Are you kidding? Do you know how often I get to do this? Never! Man, I’m here as long as you want me!” That was cool.

That night we took the roughs back to the corporate housing we were staying in and, after listening for about 5 minutes, I called Kurt in his room and said, “Man, can you believe this?” and we were both just freaking over the phone.It must also be noted that the experience of returning to L.A. a couple weeks later and mixing with Al was almost as mind-bending as the tracking days. Al’s a magician, that’s all there is to it. I probably learned more making this record than anything else I’ve ever done.

Laurence Hobgood

Track Listing:

1. Moonlight Serenade (Glenn Miller) 4:22

2. Detour Ahead (Lou Carter / Herb Ellis / John Freigo / Johnny Frigo) 5:34

3. You Don’t Know What Love Is (Gene DePaul / Don Raye) 5:36

4. Orange Blossoms in Summertime (Kurt Elling / Curtis Lundy) 6:33

5. Not While I’m Around (Stephen Sondheim) 6:26

6. Easy Living (Ralph Rainger / Leo Robin) 5:22

7. Lil’ Darlin’ (Neal Hefti / Jon Hendricks) 5:40

8. I Get Along Without You Very Well (Hoagy Carmichael) 3:37

9. Blame It on My Youth (Edward Heyman / Oscar Levant) 3:27

10. I’m Thru With Love (Gus Kahn / Fud Livingston / Matty Malneck) 4:57

11. Say It (Frank Loesser / Jimmy McHugh) 4:57

12. While You Are Mine (Kurt Elling) 7:46


Kurt Elling: vocals

Clay Jenkins: trumpet

Jeff Clayton: alto saxophone

Bob Sheppard: tenor and soprano saxophones

Laurence Hobgood: piano

Marc Johnson: bass

Peter Erskine: drums

Recorded January 29 – February 1, 2001, at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA

Produced by Kurt Elling, Laurence Hobgood and Bill Traut

Engineer: John Hendrickson


Who but Kurt Elling would open a ballads album by singing a Charlie Haden bass solo? It’s a typically ambitious move, transforming “Moonlight Serenade,” Glenn Miller’s perennial slow-dance favorite, into a hip, smoky ode. Elling is a distinctive vocalist, endowed with true musicianship: Listen as he sticks to his band like glue on the very slow tempo of “Lil’ Darlin’.” That’s not easy. Laurence Hobgood, Elling’s longtime musical partner, plays outstanding piano throughout and crafts subtle horn arrangements on several tracks. Bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Peter Erskine illuminate the session as well. The horn section — trumpeter Clay Jenkins, alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton, and tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard — is heard to greatest effect on the closing “While You Are Mine” and the beginning of “Detour Ahead.” Some of the songs, like Stephen Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around” (from Sweeney Todd), come out sounding a bit bland. But among the best is “Orange Blossoms in Summertime,” based on a Curtis Lundy tune, during which Elling executes a harmonized ensemble passage with the horns and holds a climactic long note at the end. Other highlights include the bouncy 6/8 take on “Easy Living” and the drum-and-vocal opening of “I’m Through With Love.” While Flirting With Twilight lacks the breadth of a record like The Messenger, it’s still a worthy statement from Elling, who shows yet again that vocal jazz can be more than just easy listening. (The U.S. release contains a hidden track, the old Marlene Dietrich vehicle “Je Tire Ma Révérence,” which Elling sings in French, backed only by Marc Johnson.)

David R. Adler (Allmusic)