Three other guest vocalists deliver two songs each. Norah Jones offers the best by far. The promising young vocalist renders Roxy Music's More than This as a beautiful, soft samba and closes the record with Nick Drake's Day is Done. New Orlean's music vet Theryl de'Clouet of Galactic lends his strong pipes to Earth, Wind, & Fire's Mighty Mighty and Willie Dixon's Spoonful - using a cooler delivery the latter song, which Cream covered.
If I can give or take de'Clouet's blues contribution toâ€¦Analog Playground, Kurt Elling's beatnik rant Desert Way is downright distracting. Elling's unique poetry-slam/scat-singer crooning would have fit right in on Roy Nathanson's story album Fire at Keaton's Bar & Grill. Here, however, it feels misplaced. This isn't a remarkably coherent record, but the beat-poet bit still seems dated alongside the dominant '60s and '70s references. Elling's punchy take on the bebop standard Close Your Eyes is, however, more at home. One reason may be the percussion refrain - agogo bells - that surfaces on this and several other tracks. Rhythm music rides again, indeed.
Ultimately, the album's instrumentals are what hold my attention. Hunter and company manage to jam with a relaxed air, but the arrangements are tightly knit. The melodies meander but return to touchstone refrains, and the ever-present percussion drive them onward.