Less than a week after performing on the very same stage for International Jazz Day’s All Star Global Concert, two of the world’s most acclaimed jazz stars, Kurt Elling and James Morrison, stretched out on some classic jazz tunes together at a stellar two-set show at Hamer Hall on Monday night.
The first set started with Morrisons quartet featuring his sons William (guitar) and Harry (bass) with Patrick Danao on drums – the same line-up I’d seen for the first time at theWangaratta Jazz Festival in 2016. And they were equally impressive, if only slightly more restrained. Although I don’t recall Morrison dropping so many gags at that gig.
“It’s wonderful to be here tonight to blow my own trumpet,” he began, adding, “That gag’s over now.” But there were more to come.
They opened with an energetic rendition of ‘A Beautiful Friendship’, with James on trumpet. He switched to trombone, then piano for ‘The Gentle Rain’ after which he shared a few piano gags and a great story about trying to learn American jazz pianist Erroll Garner’s technique. With James still on piano, the quartet played ‘Deep Purple’. Harry’s bass solo was impressive – he visibly puts his whole body and soul into it.
It was time for the special guests to join the line-up and James gave Australian tenor saxophonist Troy Roberts and pianist Grant Windsor worthy introductions to the stage. He reeled off a long list of achievements for multi award-winning vocalist Kurt Elling, adding: “But it’s not about the awards, it’s about the groove he creates on stage.” And indeed, Elling’s opening number was a swinging rendition of ‘Come Fly With Me’.
Other highlights included Morrison and Elling matching each other note for note on trumpet and vocalese on ‘Did You Call Her Today’, a stunning sax solo from Roberts on ‘September In The Rain’, and a superb rendition of ‘Nature Boy’ from the entire ensemble.
The chemistry between Morrison and Elling is evident – they’ve shared the stage at previous International Jazz Day concerts, and at gigs in New York, including at Birdland earlier this year which also featured Troy Roberts. This was their first Australian tour together, presenting a rare opportunity to see two of the worlds greatest jazz artists riffing off each other in style.