The Brill Building holds a special place in popular music history, not just because of the songs crafted within its walls, but also because of what it has come to represent. The ideal of the Brill Building is associated with songs that soundtrack the lives and loves of millions of people around the world. Singer Kurt Elling's tribute to that ideal, 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project, crackles with life as it connects with the emotions these songs engender.Elling's position at the top of the male jazz singers' tree has been unassailed for over a decade, topping the ...read more
Singer Kurt Elling seems to be always on the go, working with his fine quartet and lending his artful vocals to a variety of other projects as time allows. Whatever the situation, he brings high aesthetic values and standards. He likes to investigate different musical possibilities under the jazz umbrella, which he embraces without reservation.I don't deny it. I certainly identify that way," he says of being labeled a jazz singer. I feel that's the approach that I have to the music that I take on." Not all singers identify that way, even if it is obvious from ...read more
Where female jazz vocalists are plentiful, male jazz vocals exist in vast minority. With Mark Murphy in twilight, Kurt Elling has few peers in the realm of male jazz vocals where sheer inventiveness and muscularity are concerned. Elling's facility is one so great and his musical vision so clear that, at least for the time being, no one can touch him. He further establishes himself as the preeminent vocalist with the ambitious and successful 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project. Elling opens the recording with the quintessential Brill Building composition, On Broadway." Its story is a bit ...read more
Poetry has always been the libretto of jazz music. Even before epic works of the late Gil Scott Heron like H2O Gate Blues" or Winter in America" (which inspired the nations of rap and hip-hop), there was Langston Hughes with bassist Charles Mingus on Weary Blues (Verve, 1958), the great Amiri Baraka, and A.B. Spellman. Then there was Kenneth Patchen, one of The Rebel Poets of America, an enigmatic legend who, if he chose, might have laid claim to creating special arias in the realm of jazz. Not only did they pulse the meter of their verse around the beat ...read more
Jazz and poetry have a longstanding relationship that precedes the postwar experiments of the Beats, dating back to the Harlem Renaissance. As with any artistic collaboration, the cooperative efforts of improvising musicians and poets have yielded mixed results over the years. One of the first artists to successfully explore this territory (with John Cage and Charles Mingus) was Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972), a poet, novelist and painter whose innovative work ranges from political protest and sardonic humor to sentimental romance. In honor of Patchen's 100th birthday the University of Rochester commissioned forward-thinking composer John Hollenbeck's flagship ensemble, The Claudia Quintet, to ...read more
Kurt Elling The Gate Concord Music Group 2011 It's amazing how small age differences can impact on the music that resonates in our youth--experiencing it after the fact being so different than living in its time. For 43 year-old vocalist Kurt Elling, the music that reached his young, impressionable ears came from sources as diverse as Earth, Wind & Fire's I Am (Columbia, 1979) , the early-1980s incarnation of King Crimson and Discipline (DGM Live, 1981), and the post-new wave reinvention of Joe Jackson's classic Night and Day (A&M, 1982). And jazz, of ...read more
Kurt EllingSoiled Dove UndergroundDenver, COApril 9, 2011 Perhaps it's ironic: jazz wants to be free, yet boundaries abound. Nowhere has a boundary been more touchy or controversial than the line between jazz and rock. Miles Davis blurred it, trounced it, trod upon it, spat on it. And, in some circles, he was vilified; in others celebrated. Still is. You'd think the famous quote from Duke Ellington would put this sort of thing to rest, There are two kinds of music; good music and the other kind." Why worry about classifications, after all? Just sit ...read more
When Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane recorded their one and only album together they created a moment that shaped the art of vocal jazz. An instant of beauty transformed into history. Despite a bias towards the original recording, after listening to Kurt Elling's lustrous and drawn butter version, it was clear the past could be silenced to make way for innovation. This is Elling's first recording since his hit, Night Moves (Blue Note), in 2007. To say that this album is anything but spectacularly in tune with his usual panache would be an understatement. In a live performance, Elling and ...read more
This interview was originally published in February 2000. Chicago music scene
On my new recording [Kurt Elling Live in Chicago, Blue Note] I'm really proud to feature a lot of the musicians who have treated me well and who have taught me and who have been on the team with me from the get-go. Not only because of the debt of gratitude that I owe them, but also just because they're really beautiful musicians and deserve to be heard, and I'm fortunate enough to have a slightly more visible platform than other cats. It's a point of ...read more
This is a live collection recorded as a part of Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series, a creative homage to the now classic 1963 John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman recording. For this occasion a jazz trio led by Laurence Hobgood, vocalist Kurt Elling's long-time musical partner, pianist and arranger is nestled into the tender brilliance of the string quartet ETHEL. One of the last great exponents of vocalese, Elling is no less a great singing storyteller. Early on in the set, in the context of It's Easy to Remember," Elling relates a poetic jazz memory" of Coltrane and ...read more
Dedicated To You is a tribute to one of the most beloved and beautiful recordings in jazz, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. On that six song album, John Coltrane introduces a relatively unknown singer named Johnny Hartman. The two musicians had only just met one another, however in a mere three hours, they produce a classic. Hartman unfortunately never gains much recognition beyond this one album. Coltrane obviously fares a bit better. Kurt Elling is a standout choice to honor Hartman. He boasts a rich baritone with flawless intonation and an uncanny flair for storytelling, just like ...read more
Man, this is a beautiful album. How could it be otherwise? An intimate, unhurried conversation between Laurence Hobgood, since 1994 vocalist Kurt Elling's musical director, and one of the finest jazz pianists out there, and the magisterial Charlie Haden, featured bassist in bands led by saxophonist Ornette Coleman, pianist Keith Jarrett and guitarist Pat Metheny, among a truck load of other distinctions. The inimitable Elling guests on three tracks.
In his liner notes, describing the genesis of When The Heart Dances, Hobgood relates how, at a convention of the IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educators), he was chatting ...read more
If the verbiage generated by a release is proportionate to its profitability, Kurt Elling must be firmly ensconced in the black. Nightmoves has already garnered volumes of ink (All Music Guide devotes three times more space to it than Miles Davis' Kind of Blue). Perhaps equally impressive testimony to Elling's eminence is that he can afford to take four years between albums and, like Sinatra in the 1950s, keep his Down Beat poll-winning streak as top male jazz vocalist intact. Listeners by now know the wait will be worth it, and again Elling doesn't disappoint.
The album as ...read more
Kurt Elling with the Lawrence Hobgood Trio and the Bill Charlap Trio The Egg Albany, New York April 21, 2007
Kurt Elling is arguably the premier jazz singer on the scene today. Jazz musician may be a better label, since he's so much more than someone who steps in front of a microphone and provides vocals. No boy jazz singer, he.
He's released his first CD in four years (all of the others garnering Grammy nominations), and one of the stops on his supporting tour brought him to Albany, N.Y., and the Egg ...read more
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