I remember all of us being very excited about making a live recording for Blue Note at The Green Mill. And when I say "all of us", I mean the band, Jennifer, our Wednesday night regulars, the owner Dave Jemilo, the staff, the engineers, our friends in the Chicago press — everybody. It was a cracking-special time. But I think I was the most excited, because it meant that I could try to bring everybody along with me in an experience that could conceivably go out to the whole jazz world. I was and am very proud of the players on the Chicago scene who inspired and encouraged me. Although I was always dedicated to learning and hungry for more, of the exemplary players I knew early on who really deserved to have a deal with Blue Note I was the least. So I looked at things as an opportunity to transmit something of the quality and the spirit of our corner of Chicago.…read more
For LIVE IN CHICAGO we recorded three nights with a different guest situation on each night and wove the best takes together in the studio with engineer Danny Leake so that it came off like one set. Each night was a celebration, a transfiguring occasion. What secrets can I tell you that you don't already know?
1 - I was scared. While there is never a metaphorical safety net in our shows, it's a different thing when you are recording. There is no going back to fix anything at all. It either works and you sound good or it doesn't and you don't. Moreover, you know everybody will hear it — even right then while you are doing it. Plus, you want everybody to show up to the gig and help you along with spirit, right? But then they DO! Bruce Lundvall and entourage fly in from New York to catch the sets. Your wife is sitting there with friends. Your mom comes. Other musicians. Old girlfriends and long-ago allies sneak in. All kinds of people from past lives. And people are waiting outside in lines around the block for an hour at a time. And everybody wants you to deliver. On tape. If only for your own sake.
2 - Wrangling different sets of guests three nights in a row is no small feat. It was a great pleasure to cast a broad net. It was also a big logistical challenge. And every night I went onto the gig wondering if we had bitten off too much. We pulled it off, though, as well as we could. All our guests were really cool about being flexible and musical in ways that benefited the whole project. Listening back, I could do with one or two fewer singer features and more room for the cats to BLOW! I should really dig out the original masters and see what else we did that sounded right. I have a vague memory of 20 minutes of Moanin' on the night of the three tenors . . .
3 - I meant to use a much hipper line to open the record. . . .The Green Mill, where your dollar buys you more? C'mon, man!! I had meant to say, . . . The Green Mill, the Pearl of Uptown, which would've been infinitely more classic (and ironic!) But at the last nanosecond a perennial tag line from a local used auto dealership elbowed its way into the language lineup and bolted out of my mouth. What are you gonna do, right?
Anyway, here's to the Mill, the Pearl of Uptown.…close
Music by Wayne Shorter
Solos by Wayne Shorter and Lee Morgan
Vocalese lyric by Kurt Elling based on Wayne Shorter's and Lee Morgan's improvised melodies on "Night Dreamer" from the 1964 recording Night Dreamer
Lonely the roses of Avondaire / sing as though somebody still may care.
They live only for the dream of living / so come follow where / they will take you there.
I once was apprenticed / to a man who was living
in the eye if the hurricane / to know despair,
He knew all the dreams by heart / just like sailing in a boat of
crystal silence / seeing visions / of the world / of life within a life.
In a turning / like a burning / came turning /
out of everything stirring / and what had begun before
but all wrapped up / in one great godly becoming -
Tumbling / and fumbling / and stumbling
into bumbling / and rumbling along -
whirling it / and swirling it / and twirling it / and hurling it /
and overturning it / and burning it again.
I shared a whirling dervish out on the side of a hill called metaphore vivace
swinging en route to a nascent solar / with the scissored visored blizzard wizard /
gizzarding planets and secrets within / like an avatar.
While meanwhile / in turnstyling / and spinning over him
spells bespeaking kingdoms in the dark
calling me to yield / knighting me in a field / covered with armies
and with princes. All were signing / cannons shining / pennants flying.
And when he spoke to me he sang / and his words really rang -
this child of the knowledge of the beauty of the night -
he sang to me of masters passing on / of father after father after father
climbing up into the lotus bloom / upon the tortoise's back
and of grandfathers / who danced through their living a longer time ago.
He showed me a palace in time / in which all the talismans
from all the zeuses / swing upon a pendulum of secrets
in a circle that remembers / and when asked a question will surrender
every secret key to every hero's message / given to every heart in time
but only known to but a few /or so it seems.
When I asked of them / what shall I do / to see the god?
They only said / the goldenrod / which grows inside of
every secret dream you dream / while waiting for the god -
it-s a symbol from the man in the fire.
ling you the thing you desire
is a garment that covers the riddle of everything secretly wished for
and of the world of which you are an inheritor.
Suddenly the chamber was flooded with light /
hurling me skyward like a meteorite/
When I fell to earth / I saw everything in a blur.
I saw that time was accelerating in a curve
and the palace in which I had stood / it was flowing, like lava, on acres of woodland
like a pompei-an mountain volcano / making archipelago
and destroying the planet / at fortissimo
bulldozing everything down / to make room for what
was a byzantine / a labarynthine / knotty mess of
manifolding passageways / a tangle of confusion /
where the walls made / an asylum of baroque.
Like a joke / words were spoken
to provoke me / and to toss me
nude and empty / to the sea.
But I would have none of it.
I simply turned my back and walked out/ of the dreamscape/
into landscape / like a bedroom / where I heard that
Lonely the roses of solitaire / sing as though somebody still may care.
They live only for the dream of living / so come follow where they will take you there.
Music by Vince Mendoza, originally titled "Esperança"
Lyric by Kurt Elling inspired by and integrating Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda
There's a secret that never dies -
like a song of hidden meanings that we never apprehend.
There are questions just as old as time
and the answers that come never quite make amends.
Even so, when you look at time
you can get a subtle feeling of the way it ought to be.
Take a good look at your own real life
and you'll see if you want what you've gotten to be.
It's a hope, a sign, a measure of quiet rapture -
of love and what may come after.
It's let-ting go, and letting no answer be an answer.
How did smoke learn how to fly? - Where do birds go off to die?
Why does coal sleep in darkness? - Do dreams live in apart-ness?
Is a number forever? - where's the soul of the water?
How old is old November? - No one here can remember.
If I die, where does time go? - Do the bees feel ver-ti-go?
To get love - is there potion? - Or is love on-ly mo-tion
Holy lift, holy reading - holy gift, holy needing.
Holy sound, holy waiting - holy spark a-ni-ma-ting
holy food, holy breathing - holy light in-ter-wea-ving.
Holy night, holy hand-write - holy flight, holy in-sight:
holy sun, holy brother - holy moon, holy mother.
Holy dream, holy vision - holy scheme, holy mission:
holy one to a-no-ther - holy me, holy other.
Holy lives, holy blending - holy start, holy ending.