The City Winery was only about two-thirds full for the Friday afternoon performance - a small crowd, considering they removed at least half the seats to maintain social distancing. But jazz singer Kurt Elling and his band still brought full energy to their performance.
Elling, who has released 15 albums and won 2 Grammy Awards, performed for 90 minutes, showing off his vocal range for a small, but enthusiastic crowd.
It was the day before Mother's Day, and he talked about mothers, and he talked about the pandemic, and he talked about how this was his "first proper weekend" performing after a long layoff. But mostly he sang, and he sang well!
Elling is primarily an interpreter of the songs of others, but he brings an impressive ability to make each song his own. It may be the vocalizing on "I'm Satisfied" or the tonal range on "Come Fly with Me". Speaking of range, he and the band moved seamlessly between different styles of jazz from swing to ballads to improvisation.
His backing band consisted of piano, drums, and standup bass. They were talented and understated -impressing with their playing without drawing undue attention to themselves. After about an hour Elling - a Rockford, IL native - invited Chicagoan Lenard Simpson onto stage to accompany him on saxophone. This was a treat as I know Simpson's work after seeing him at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival last September.
It was a delightful evening that must have been a treat for the mothers in the audience.