All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

3

Kurt Elling: The Questions

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
How does one grapple with existence and its juxtaposition against the present state of affairs? That's the question that hangs heaviest over The Questions. While vocalist Kurt Elling didn't come into this production with a theme in mind, he discovered a through line in the act of wrestling with difficulties and dreams in this age of marked unreason and unrest. With these ten songs he explores that topic to the fullest, coloring the music with his signature blend of authority and understanding.

A mixture of tones—inquiring and knowing—sets this meditation on humanity and our times in motion with "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." Bob Dylan's difficult truths by way of Elling's passionate delivery immediately become the cynosure of ears and minds, though co-producer Branford Marsalis's soprano solo and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts' pelting finish certainly garner attention. What follows—an examining and affirming smile at life in pianist Stu Mindeman's musical setting of poet Franz Wright's " A Happy Thought," a gorgeous treatment of "American Tune" that recasts the Paul Simon classic as a treatise on immigration wrapped in hope's light and trapped in fear's web, and a hymn-like interpretation of Peter Gabriel's "Washing Of The Water" that's as emotive as anything in Elling's discography—greatly furthers the image of the artist playing with the powers of enlightenment and doubt.

Through the remainder of the album, Elling paints with the various shades of perception, poetry, and philosophy that he knows so well. The bluesy resonance of "A Secret In Three Views" belies the deep thinking behind his Rumi-inspired lyrics to Jaco Pastorius' "Three Views Of A Secret," "Lonely Town" utilizes lighthearted sounds to frame the topic of solitude, "Endless Lawns" uses pianist-composer Carla Bley's "Lawns" as the musical basis for an arc that includes turmoil and release, and "I Have Dreamed" speaks to a yearning for love to bloom. Then the album closes with "The Enchantress," a work nodding toward matriarchal figures—both Marsalis' and Elling's—and taking directional cues from poet Wallace Stevens' "The Idea Of Order At Key West," and a toned-down "Skylark," bringing the title of this album into lyrical consideration in a subdued light. The core band members and notable guests all make the weight of their contributions felt along the way here, but Elling manages to carry the weight of the world in his voice. He may not have the answer to all of the questions, but he certainly makes you think about them.

Track Listing: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall; A Happy Thought; American Tune; Washing Of The Water; A Secret In Three Views; Lonely Town; Endless Lawns; I Have Dreamed; The Enchantress; Skylark.

Personnel: Kurt Elling: vocals; Stu Mindeman: piano, Hammond B-3 organ; Joey Calderazzo: piano (4, 6, 9); John McLean: acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Clark Sommers: bass; Branford Marsalis: saxophones; Marquis Hill: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums.

Title: The Questions | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Okeh

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Origins CD/LP/Track Review
Origins
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Bright Force CD/LP/Track Review
Bright Force
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Say It CD/LP/Track Review
Say It
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Alchemia Garden CD/LP/Track Review
Alchemia Garden
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Don't You Wish CD/LP/Track Review
Don't You Wish
by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
Published: April 20, 2018
Read Making Other Arrangements CD/LP/Track Review
Making Other Arrangements
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 19, 2018
Read "Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn" CD/LP/Track Review Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: November 18, 2017
Read "Vintage Christmas Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Vintage Christmas Trio
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "Paint" CD/LP/Track Review Paint
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 7, 2017
Read "On Another Path" CD/LP/Track Review On Another Path
by Geannine Reid
Published: February 13, 2018
Read "A Year Ago Today" CD/LP/Track Review A Year Ago Today
by Doug Collette
Published: March 18, 2018
Read "The Imperfect Sea" CD/LP/Track Review The Imperfect Sea
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 4, 2017