- Que Sera Sera
- When the Heart Dances
- First Song
- Stairway to the Stars
- New Orleans
- Why Did I Choose You?
- The Cost of Living
Laurence Hobgood - Piano
Charlie Haden - Double bass (tracks 1-3, 5-8, 10, 11)
Kurt Elling - Vocals (tracks 3, 6, 10)
Perhaps you have never heard of Laurence Hobgood but for many years he has been the musical director and pianist for singer Kurt Elling, someone who has received much more publicity in the jazz world. This CD gives us a chance to hear Hobgood alone at the piano, although on most tracks he is joined by bassist Charlie Haden.
The album starts with a surprise: Que Sera Sera, a popular but corny song sung by Doris Day in Alfred Hitchock's 1956 remake of his own film, The Man Who Knew Too Much. It is not a tune you would expect to hear from a jazz musician, but Laurence Hobgood transmutes it into suitable jazz material. Charlie Haden gets to play a bass solo on it but his playing on this album sounds rather plodding. This may be a fault of the recording, but it slightly counteracts the impact of Hobgood's quicksilver piano.
This means that the most savoury tracks are the two where Laurence plays entirely unaccompanied: Sanctuary, which in its free, poetic flow reminds me of some of Keith Jarrett's solo piano recordings, and Leatherwood, a rather more sprightly, expansive piece. Both of these are originals by Hobgood, as is the title-track, whose introduction is a good example of how Laurence's rhapsodic approach is served through the full, resonant sound he coaxes from the piano. Other notable tracks are Chickoree (co-written by Hobgood and Haden with the bass sounding brighter than elsewhere on the album), the pensive Why Did I Choose You (with one note different from Barbra Streisand's classic version), and the floating The Cost of Living (a Don Grolnick composition).
Hobgood's long-time collaborator, Kurt Elling, makes guest appearances on three tracks: First Song, Stairway to the Stars and Daydream. Despite the plaudits that Elling has received from many reviewers, I find his vocalizing difficult to love. His intonation is inconsistent in Charlie Haden's First Song - and the lyrics are far from distinct. Elling's melodramatic version of Stairway to the Stars may impress those who like songs to be dramatic but it strikes me as over-theatrical, although Hobgood's lyrical piano is worth savouring. And Kurt swallows the words in Duke Ellington's Daydream. Elling is undeniably a jazz singer, in that he does unusual things with songs, but he often sounds too mannered to me.
So I'm still waiting for the ideal Laurence Hobgood album - in which he gets to play completely on his own.