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ALBUM REVIEWS / JAZZ

** 1/2 KURT ELLING "The Messenger" Blue Note

May 27, 1997|BILL KOHLHAASE

Elling is the perfect vocalist for the coffeehouse set, a hipster with only a so-so voice but a great feel for his material. With fine backing from pianist Laurence Hobgood, bassist Rob Amster and drummer Paul Wertico, Elling strikes a variety of poses: droning coolly on "Nature Boy," scatting with hit-and-miss abandon on "Ginger Bread Boy" and taking the role of Beat poet on the spoken "It's Just a Thing." Surprisingly, he sounds best in tandem with the omnipresent Cassandra Wilson on the Zombies' 1967 hit "Time of the Season." Elling is not for the discriminating. But he can be a lot of fun.

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