We really tried to plant a flag with this record. We started with a few compositions (the aforementioned "Minuano", "Resolution" and "A Secret I") and a sonic idea – our trio and Stefon Harris. I knew Stefon's work from his own Blue Note recordings. His protean compositional sensibility, firey, headlong and always hyper-articulate playing style was something I wanted to engage to create a wholly new atmosphere. Of course the most important was his sound. Thankfully, Stefon was also fired up about playing with us.…read more

I feel that we did what we came to do. I am very proud of this record. I stand behind the writing and the performances. Of course, there are always things I'd like to have played better. I'm always frustrated about that & probably always will be. But it's a solid modern jazz record with a point of view and something to say. In most ways, I think Man In The Air speaks for itself, which is why I want to take the opportunity at this point to write more fully about the contributions Laurence and Rob have made to our mutual success. For although record labels sign "Kurt Elling" to recording contracts, they are hugely fortunate that signing Kurt Elling means getting Laurence Hobgood and Rob Amster as well.

Laurence Hobgood is a deeply gifted artist. His musical concept is broad, precise and flexible. It is orchestral. Because he is a deep thinker, his music is profound. Because he is childlike and free in his imagination it is filled with surprise and wonder. Because he feels deeply it plays powerfully on the listener's emotions. Since he is also a technical master of the instrument Laurence is instantly able to translate emotion into marvelous and resonant sounds. His delivery is sparkling-clear and super-vivid. He is solid state. There is no way any of "my" records would have reached whatever sonic heights they have without Laurence's focus, direction and dedicated partnership.

I must also compliment and thank Rob Amster for his integral contributions to all of these recordings. Rob and I have worked on music together since well before the Blue Note and even before Laurence and I began working. (And believe me, we worked some very strange gigs together early on.) Throughout, Rob has been the steady musical pulse that has time and again kept an over-achieving (ie, too-many-note-playing) front line from careering off the rails. He has helped Laurence and me many times to edit arrangements-in-progress (those Latin kicks on "Never Say Goodbye" are entirely his). I have a great respect for Rob's day-to-day connection to musical study. Rob fits the definition of a solid, chops-laden, working musician. He works constantly to conquer his instrument and play music. He succeeds.

The creative companionship of these two strong-willed and generous artists has proved crucial to the relative success of this venture. Thanks to Laurence and Rob I have an apprenticeship in music even while being a bandleader. Ideas that have come to me half-formed and sometimes half-baked have been completed and refined as we have worked on them together. Even in my most fleshed-out strategies and detailed plans I make certain to leave space for each of them to shine as the great improvising artists they are – knowing that they will exceed whatever great expectations I have in mind. They support and encourage me. They put up with the vagaries of the road just like I do, but without all the extra attention I get as the front man. They are ready to go down just about any old rabbit hole I think might hold something special – and they often have to remind me of the way out again.

I was teaching a master class recently and a question came from one of the students about what a singer should be doing on a gig when he/she is not singing and someone else is soloing. It is a natural question for a young person to ask, I suppose, but it came as a surprise to me. What should you be doing? It's kind of absurd, isn't it? If you are the singer and you have a killing band you have the best seats of anyone in any performance space in the world!

What should you do?

You should listen to the band.

Kurt Elling
Laurence Hobgood
Piano & Rhodes Electric Piano
Rob Amster
Frank Parker, Jr.
Drums & Percussion
Stefon Harris
Jim Gailloreto
Soprano Saxophone
Paul Wertico
Drums (1)
Brad Wheeler
Soprano Saxophone ()
1Minuano lyrics  
2In the Winelight lyrics  
3Resolution lyrics  
4Time To Say Goodbye lyrics  
5The Uncertainty Of The Poet  
6The More I Have You  
7Man in the Air lyrics   chart
8A Secret I lyrics  
9Higher Vibe lyrics  
10Hidden Jewel lyrics  
11Never My Love  
12All Is Quiet lyrics  

Music by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays
Lyric by Kurt Elling
Originally titled "Minuano (Six Eight)" from Metheny's 1987 recording Still Life (Talking)

Day comes slowly - absorbing the darknesses softly.
Night leaves gently - her beauty is spent, and she rises.
I step into the lightness - I hear you.
You're calling me out of my sadness.
Your flowering wonders are calling me home.

Darkness lingers - but always surrenders to loving.
Darkest midnight - is swallowed in oceans of laughter.
I follow into lightness - I hear you.
You're calling me out of my sadness.
Your flowering wonders are calling me home.

Dancing along a dawn that leads to you -
Singing a song that blossoms in a fugue as morning settles on
Dreaming into a sky of brilliant blue -
Noticing clouds are whispering that you will dance with me very soon

Already been as high as Kathmandu -
`Willing to go as far as Timbuktu
Nowhere's too far away - I may catch up with you today -
maybe today will finally be the day

Flying along a dawn that leads to you -
Singing a song that makes itself anew - a music magic wand
Reaching into a sky of brilliant blue -
eagles are calling out to say the you will dance me very soon

Already been as high as Kathmandu -
Willing to go as far a Timbuktu
Nowhere's too far away - I may catch up with you today -
maybe today we'll make our getaway!
Like light from the stars made ten thousand years ago - comes love, like a gift of sight
Growing stronger every moment on the way home.

In the Winelight

Music by William Eaton
Lyric by Kurt Elling and Phil Galdston
Originally titled "Winelight" from Grover Washington Jr's 1980 recording Winelight

In the winelight - livin' lovin's soft delights.
Smooth and mellow - feelin' how we move so right.
We're lettin' the time go - & takin' it nice and slow.

In the winelight - lazyin' through this all night flight.
Higher and higher, baby - touchin' you with second sight.
We're over the rainbow - it's time to let it flow.

Baby, you're my lover - no other I'd ask to stay.
And make a hideaway with me – dreaming in burgundy

Lookin' out the window at the universe's starry array - we can say:
"Everything's ok, you see" - as long as you're here with me.

We can leave the world or make it go.
We can lose it in the undertow.
If you say it's true, then we can push it away.
As long as you stay.
Whatever you say.
Please, baby, just stay.

And let this winelight - color every look tonight.
Feel the love grow - & let our spirits reunite.
We never will let go - until we overflow.


Music/Solo by John Coltrane
Vocalese lyric by Kurt Elling based on John Coltrane's improvised melody on his 1965 recording A Love Supreme

God - king above all other gods - lead us now, so we can walk wherein the prophets said that we would trod.

Buddha - tell a sutra like a spell - teach us well to answer silence with the calling of bells.

Allah - bring us to a good alarm - subjugate our wills to answer you like a mighty arm.

Elohim is a pillar of light in the dark and leading all his people to light
(for He's the king of the fire).
He brings the fire into everything that's living on earth, in the sun, in the stars.
Take a spark of it / deep within you / put it to the test / it will do the rest / I confess
It will be like climbing up Mount Everest / I can't express the view from there /
but it's for you to follow through.

Lama - show the Power's bright array - bless the climb, and settle peace upon the universe's dark display.

And Jesus - remember every promise made. Present yourself in the middle of the prayers that we say.

Vishnu - preserve us all along the way. Keep us clear of the final thunderbolt of the judgement day.

Hear me. Hear what I / what I ask for today / Fathers.

Way off at the far leftern shelf of the world - up in a house right on the edge of everything
Where the time is tumbling in a vortex / the nexus of timetable tides / in the final
Lighthouse at shining earth's ending / at the spinning of the finishing of sweeping time
Driving silence like a stampeding careening wash in charging advance / digging the sound
Of passing everything away into the secret of eternity's pivot dance / breaking down crashing doorways
Bashing through dream place / smash, unlash, efface /
Everything goes to the open mouth of Kali-ma / where the vault of heaven opens

A witness as lonely as forgotten tears keeps up a vigil watching all - even light - go out.
One witness / one child digging the slaving wheel of meat spitting out - taking up
Everything / by the roots / pulling out the lot of what has passed into the past, like a dream.
She knows what is gone - gone over - everyone that is done and unbegun and starting
From the super-microcosmic no bug all the way to super-huge galactic suns. And she knows
The beginning is coming in the sweep at the end of all. Even gods have passed over, away.

Then one day the shadow of a priest on the horizon appeared.
He wasn't taken up into the swirling.
He walked with purpose all the while digging his heels into the bedrock like a man.

But as he came into view the witness saw his eyes were crying.
Tears like blood fell to earth / as he watched heaven disappear in the void - up the drain
into the paraboloid / realizing it all / everything / everywhere / into his eyes / seeing that all /
he had beloved went out of itself and away / here in this last ever surge of a day
tearing all meaning away. And to the witness's indifference he had this to say:

"I know about birth. I know about death, and how the light goes out of men -
the life departing - powerless giving it up. But in the vast indifference
I invent a deeper meaning:

"I'm the one who will say, use the will every day or go mad trying. Go to war against the
impotent side of living.

"Use every power you're given to stand and act like a man.

"And pray every day to every god. Strike the bowl of heaven and the ringing will become a law.

"Build bridges where you need to go. Bring the fire of enlightenment here to life below.

"Speak mercy to the things you meet. Listen up to hear the whispering of the blood you bleed.

"Stay awake - no mistake - dance the dream awake. And awake."

Time To Say Goodbye

Music by J. Zawinul
Solo by Wayne Shorter
Vocalese lyric by Kurt Elling based on Wayne Shorter's "A Remark You Made" from the 1977 recording Heavy Weather

Something in the air was stinging -
the day you came to meet me in Curie Park.

You came to tell me the sky was so blue.

That it was big and round - and it was calling to you.

You never knew a sky as blue as this could be - be so frightening.

And I knew it then - you would fly.

Light played upon your face - like lace -
it was time to kiss and say goodbye.

Our hearts would break - be folded in the ache of an early autumn.

Birds would alight from flight - singing, to light the opening skies of life
and make a sound like lovers crying.

And when you kissed me, you let a single tear
say the very thing you knew I couldn't hear:

The truest love resigns itself to everything.

No matter how life pulls it apart, love makes another start again

Now when I think of that broken-hearted fall -
I'd give my all to have that moment to speak again

to thank you for chasing a bluer sky - and to kiss again - and say goodbye.

Moments live in forever once they live. So we can give away our forever day.

And it's no regret to say, "That was yesterday"
when we give away our forever day.

Time to say "goodbye" - and find what time can bring to love.

It's time for me to try - to see what life is really of.

It's time to say "goodbye".

Man in the Air chart

Music by Laurence Hobgood
Lyric by Kurt Elling

Reclining in a chair at the edge of otherwhere
Maybe madness - and maybe understand-ness
& full of wise

The man up in the air keeps a very steady stare
He can see you - can see right through you
With inner eyes
The Man up in the air!

And you'd never know it - as he floats in the air
He's passing through stars!
The man is poet - imagine a mountain
A fountain of free-flowing mind

Man up the air! He can fly off anywhere

The man up in the air - has a vision of everywhere
Recollected - and finally connected
And harmonized

A Secret I

Music by Herbie Hancock
Lyric by Kurt Elling
Originally titled "Alone And I" from the 1962 recording Takin' Off

Alone and I can see the moonlight and starlight
as they plant kisses on my dreams and thoughts
In moments passing by me

-- and the sound of laughing voices as they call me so softly,
"come a little closer, Darling - won't you? - and love me a little while."

And, if it seems your whole life is spent blooming, it's a miracle.
but it could happen.

I used to think death was just an ending, not a starting up.
But then a friend of mine, a man,
he up and died one Tuesday.

Now he lives inside of me and all his other friends.
And we welcome him into ourselves in a way that makes us more like him.
It's friendly gravity we're pulling on.

And the white moon told me it was so.

Alone and I will love the moonlight a little more these days.

Higher Vibe

Music by Courtney Pine
Lyric by Kurt Elling
Originally titled "Invisible (Higher Vibe)" from the 1997 recording Underground

Higher vibe - live in me

Higher vibe - set me free

Meditating on higher truth - is creating a living proof

(in a peaceful way)

Everything you do

Everywhere you go

Everyone you know

Is alive and loved and shining in the mind of God

Hidden Jewel

Music/Solo by Bobby Watson
Lyric by Kurt Elling
Originally titled "Jewel" from the 1983 recording Beatitudes

There's more to love than loving
there's more to pain than pain
And if diamonds take a million years
we must learn to overcome the same strain

Wanting what's new means one thing:
asking what's old to die
And what's true before we move to grow
passes over in a moment of sighing

I knew a girl - she refused to come out fighting
She could have moved the planets with her hand like
counting grains of sand.
Dig her daily shuffle on down the street on slovenly feet
Dig the love within her waiting,
with an undiscovered purpose.

You couldn't help but think about her as a missing person - someone important had caused her heart to fear
So she withered, like a raisin in the sun - needing will, needing vision, needing hope and not doubt
Needing shelter from a loveless existence

She'd mustered all her little courage just to face the day -
it was rainy and gray
And we all could see her, trying to free her

Looking out to find the person who had taken innocence and blessedness and carried them away -- who'd given all of it away to those who couldn't see her beauty.

And Prince Charming never came.

And, if he had, shed have spit into his eye &
left him wondering why anyway.
Charming princes never carry half as much as they can carry off.
I see it every day.

Pretty soon she drove us all away -
for her there could be no other way.

All Is Quiet

Music by Bob Mintzer
Lyric by Kurt Elling

Meet me in a shadow land of quiet.
Speak to me of loving. But speak low to me - in a whisper.
Whispers open magical doors if you let them -
Opening to hidden rooms full of color -
In shades like Marc Chagall.

These days, everybody speaks of love so loud.
They shout, as if love were something owed them -
Like something they can order around -
Like something that comes when called.

Let your body fall away in quiet,
Knowing loving grows over time, like a tree in the forest.
Your face is as lovely as sleep - faint with stillness.
I can smell the summer there in your tangled hair.
It folds me in a dream.

The reverie of silence - here in the hidden constellation -
Joining the twilight sky, like starry bright -
We're soaring over everything, like birds in flight,
Into the quiet night.

We're allowed (aloud)
for all is quiet now