Elvis Costello Live with the Metropole Orkest

My Flame Burns Blue (Deutsche Grammophon)

The Netherlands' Metropole Orkest, a jazz/pop/cabaret ensemble, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. They're famous for collaborations with visiting artists such as Stan Getz, Celine Dion, and now Elvis Costello. Recorded at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2004, with arrangements by Costello, the program revisits tunes old and new, and a few covers, dressed up in fancy jazz/pop costumes. Costello's voice isn't supple enough to deem him a jazz singer, but he knows how to deliver a song, even when he's almost drowned by the volume of the Orkest. The set features Costello's more serious compositions, including "Hora Decubitus," a Charles Mingus tune with elaborate tongue-twisting lyrics by Costello, delivered in a rush and punctuated by a sharp, bluesy guitar solo; "Upon a Veil of Midnight Blue," a dramatic ode to true love that's remarkably free from cynicism; and the title track, Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count" reinvented by Costello with a wrenching, torchy vocal full of mystery and painfully restrained passion.

 
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