The album you hold in your hands is a map, but Passion World isn't a geographical location. Rather, this disparate collection charts the veiled fears, unspoken confessions, indelible memories and rapturous desires found in every human heart. Drawing on material from more than a half-dozen countries, Kurt Elling searches out the particular sensibilities of different cultures, creating an emotionally charged mosaic; one that amplifies a profound array of universal experiences. This is what great art does.…read more

While it's impressive to watch Elling throw himself into so many different traditions, eclecticism isn't the point or agenda here. What binds the album together, aside from Elling's emotional commitment to the material, is the enviable cohesion and versatility of his collaborators. Time in the trenches and on the road bind together a working American band that features the impeccable musicianship and textural resourcefulness of guitarist John McLean, pianist Gary Versace, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Kendrick Scott. Time in the music itself ties Elling and his band to musicians like France's virtuoso accordionist Richard Galliano and Germany's trumpet star Till Brönner.

In many ways, the first piece encapsulates the way that Elling reaches far beyond the usual sources for material. Starting with a Pat Metheny creation he re-discovered through the work of Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek, Elling added his own new lyric in English and commissioned John Clayton to create the music to a new and haunting introduction, "The Verse." By way of easing a much remarked-upon personal transition, he moves directly into an arrangement created for the band by his long-time collaborator Laurence Hobgood, so that Elling's first album after the end of their two-decade partnership opens with their collaboration. The end result is a strikingly dramatic piece, part art song and part dreamscape.

Elling gathered many of the songs in Passion World through the course of his travels, and they come freighted with the backstory of their discovery.

The "Loch Tay Boat Song" is a traditional piece Elling learned while backpacking through the Highlands while a college student, not long before he turned to jazz as his true creative outlet. The emotionally striking recording features Scotland's saxophone master Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in a fresh harmonic setting from the young German arranger Florian Ross.

"Bonita Cuba" came about via an accident of proximity when Elling found himself in a cabin adjacent to Arturo Sandoval on a Caribbean jazz cruise. From his adjoining balcony, Elling listened to the Cuban trumpet legend playing an impossibly sad melody over and over again.

When asked whether the piece was simply an ode to the setting sun or something more, Sandoval explained that he was inventing a tune to comfort himself. "I was thinking about Cuba, and about friends back home I haven't seen for decades," he said. "I was thinking about my mother, who always thought she'd go home. Instead, she died in America, and is buried there." The lyric Elling and Phil Galdston composed complements Sandoval's heartbreaking melody perfectly. The song redeems some small portion of the vast, lost expanse of 90 miles that continues to separate Sandoval from his homeland, and gives the sadness room to sing.

Just when Passion World seems to brim with tears, Elling brings the effervescent Los Angeles jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek to the fore for a duet on Dorival Caymmi's ode to the beauties of his homeland, "Você Já Foi à Bahia?," a brief blast of pure sensuous joy. (After all, if you really want to samba, you should go to Bahia!) And then it's back to luxurious tears, with Michael Abene's ravishing arrangement of Brahms' "Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht" for the WDR Funkhausorchester and WDR Big Band. There aren't many artists who can pull off this kind of tonal and cultural juxtaposition, but Elling does so with sincerity and grace.

In other moments Elling works in the well-worn tradition of jazz alchemy, turning familiar pop songs into vehicles for improvisation, as in the sinewy version of the hit from Ireland's U2, "Where The Streets Have No Name," and in the infectious refrain from Iceland's Björk, "Who Is It?" (Both arrangements are by the invaluable guitarist John McLean.) Kurt Elling isn't making any naive panglossian claims with Passion World. Rather, he approaches the material with wide-eyed marvel at the multiplicity of the human experience.

And, he's already surveying new territory to expand the realm. "My ears are open for more," Elling says. "We may as well think of this as Passion World, Volume 1, since I know I haven't even touched on music from the Middle East, Asia or Africa. For now, though, the arrangements on Passion World are the ones I want to give to different audiences as I tour. It's remarkable how people respond when you make an obvious effort to learn and honor a precious part of their culture."

In one sense, Kurt Elling is following the artist's imperative to search out the most resonant material, whatever the source. That necessity to keep stoking the creative fires is an interior process. But there's another, similarly primal but outwardly directed impulse at work. Elling is putting into practice E.M. Forster's famous dictum from Howards End, "Only connect!...Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height." Connect he does, offering another way to understand jazz as a truly international music.

– Andrew Gilbert …close
Kurt Elling
John McLean
Acoustic and Electric Guitars
Gary Versace
Piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3 Organ, Accordion
Clark Sommers
Kendrick Scott
Drums, Voice (4)
Special Guests:
Till Brönner
Trumpet (8)
Frank Chastenier
Piano (10)
Richard Galliano
Accordion (13)
Alan Pasqua
Celeste (13)
Sara Gazarek
Voice (7, 9, 11)
Trumpet (6)
James Shipp
Percussion, Voice (4)
Tommy Smith
Saxophone (3)
Karolina Strassmayer
Saxophone (5)
Francisco Torres
Percussion, Voice (4)
Bonita Cuba:
  Arturo Sandoval - Trumpet
  Dave Siegel - Keyboards
  John Belzaguy - Bass
  Johnny Friday - Drums
La Vie En Rose & Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht:
  WDR Funkhausorchester & WDR Big Band - Lucas Schmid, Director; Michael Abene, Conductor
1The Verse lyrics  
2After the Door lyrics  
3Loch Tay Boat Song lyrics  
4Si Te Contara lyrics  
5La Vie En Rose lyrics  
6Bonita Cuba lyrics  
7Where the Streets Have No Name  
8The Tangled Road lyrics  
9Você Já Foi à Bahia? lyrics  
10Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht (Liebeslieder Walzer Op. 52, No. 17) lyrics  
11Who Is It (Carry My Joy On the Left, Carry My Pain On the Right)  
12Where Love Is  
13iTunes Bonus: Parisian Heartbreak lyrics  
14iTunes Bonus: Me Jedyne Niebo lyrics  
The Verse

Music by John Clayton
Lyric by Kurt Elling

I always knew I'd fall for the girl next door.
To stay at home with love would be my great reward.
My sorrow came when she required more than the simple life.

She wanted fashion and fame and money and speed.
And I just wanted to love and to need her.

So I guess it's the road for me and my dream.
The search for a new loving home will be my only theme.

After the Door

Music by Pat Metheny
Lyric by Kurt Elling

The road opens up tonight / now that I am free
Colors flood my eyes / and I can see

Home is just one scene / in a giant play
In a book / only one page

The songs I already know / lovely as they are
Should grow / into something more.

There's a world / of / love / and / music / after the door

Loch Tay Boat Song

Traditional, Composed by Annie C. MacLeod
Lyric by Sir Harold Boulton

When I've done my work of day / And I row my boat away
Down the waters o' Loch Tay / As the evening light is fading

And I look upon Ben Lawers / Where the after-glory glows
And I think on two bright eyes / And the merry mouth below

She's my beauteous nighean ruadh* / She's my joy and sorrow too
And although she is untrue / Well, I cannot live without her

For my heart's a boat in tow / And I'd give the world to know
Why she means to let me go / As I sing horee horo

Nighean ruadh*, your lovely hair / Has more glamour I declare
Than all the tresses rare / 'tween Killin and Aberfeldy

Be they lint white, brown or gold / Be they blacker than the sloe
They are worth no more to me / Than the melting flake of snow

Her eyes are like the gleam / O' the sunlight on the stream
And the songs the fairies sing / Seem like songs she sings at milking

But my heart is full of woe / For last night she bade me go
And the tears begin to flow / As I sing horee, horo

(* "Nighean ruadh" is Scottish Gaelic for "red-haired girl".)

Si Te Contara

Music and Lyric by Félix Reina Altuna

Si tú supieras / mi sufrimiento
Si te contara / la inmensa amargura

Que llevo tan dentro / la triste historia
Que noche tras noche / de dolor y pena

Llena mi alma / surge en mi memoria
como una condena / Si tú supieras

Te importaría / Si te dijera
Que en mí ya no queda / ni luz / ni alegría

Que tu recuerdo / es el daño más fuerte
Que me hago yo mismo / por seguir soñando

Con que tú regreses / arrepentida

If you knew my suffering . . .

If I were to tell you of the immense bitterness I hold inside me;

The sad story which haunts and invades my memory night after night

And fills my soul with pain and sorrow . . .

If you knew . . .
You would have to care.

If you knew that there was no light, no joy left in me . . .
That the memory of you is a great pain I inflict upon myself
In the hope that you will return

You would return to me . . . And repent.

La Vie En Rose

Music and Lyric by Édith Giovanna Gassion and Louis Guglielmi
Additional Lyric by Kurt Elling

Quand tu me prends dans tes bras
Tu me parles tout bas,
Je vois la vie en rose.

Tu me dis des mots d'amour,
Des mots de tous les jours,
Et ça me fait quelque chose.

Tu es entrée dans mon cœur
Une part de bonheur
Dont je connais la cause.

C'est toi pour moi, moi pour toi dans la vie,
Tu me l'as dit, l'as juré pour la vie.

Et dès que je t'aperçois
Alors je sens en moi
Mon cœur qui bat

She's a wonder to me / and
when she comes over to me / moving lightly with the band

I feel a need come on / I need to become her pawn
And though I lead our turn around the dance floor

She is an entreaty to me / mesmerizing and enticing me to see
my partner as the queen of all my being

I can't resist / she's a magnet that draws me / that thrills me and awes me
Everything I hold dear is dancing right here beside me

She's like a wish I made that somehow comes true every morning
And brightens up my way

And there's a shade of love in things that she'll say
The bloom is on the roses every day for my love and so for me

The dance is like a dream / swaying and waving under golden stars
The lights that sparkle in her eyes are emeralds and shiny diamonds

Sparking up the night / A dance of dreaming never felt so right

Life In A Rosy Hue

When you take me in your arms
You whisper to me
I see life in a rosy hue

You tell me words of love
Everyday words
It touches me

You came into my heart
A part of happiness grew
and I know why

It's you for me, and me for you in this life
We are sworn to each other for life

And as soon as I see this truth,
Then I feel within me
the beating of my heart

When I take her in my arms / She speaks softly to me

And the world takes on a rosy hue
She tells me love words / in everyday words that make me shiver
She came into my heart / like a piece of happiness / Whose cause I know

She's mine and I'm hers for all of life
She told me so / She swore it

And since I first saw her
I can feel my heart beating inside me

Bonita Cuba

Music by Arturo Sandoval
Lyric by Kurt Elling and Phil Galdston

Just ninety miles / over the sea
Another life / is calling to me
Another world / I lost to fire and to ashes
The sky may grow light / but the smoke cloud never passes

Mi madre died / longing for home
But you can't fly when you're tied to a stone
Mi padre died / and he lives now with Jesus
Su corazón in a million pieces

I cry for them / and for all my family
The friendships of my youth / and for all my country

If I could / I'd make a boat out of my heart
And sail to my home / Bonita Cuba / in the dark

I'd go insane / but I live in music
I play through the pain / and pour songs on my bruises

If I could / I'd make a boat out of my heart
And sail to my home / Bonita Cuba / in the dark

The Tangled Road

Music by Richard Galliano
Lyric by Kurt Elling

Tonight / tonight the moon is clean
There's nothing in between / the light that throws a sheen
On everything we think we see / under the stars
And neon of the bars / convincing us we are in love

But any moment now / a cloud or two will frown above us
For love is a fleeting thing / a lying and a cheating thing

Most times it seems the road to love is a tangle
Always an angle keeps me from finding love / in a maze of covering
Love is just misleading me / a mistake / defeating me

To me it feels like love is willful and confusing
Always abusing / lovers like me who keep the flame
Praying to meet another / who keeps the same
Holding a heart unclaimed / more than another game

Still I'll go on searching / weaving and lurching
Hoping one day / to see love clear

Você Já Foi à Bahia?

Music and Lyric by Dorival Caymmi

Você já foi à Bahia, nêga?

Então vá!
Quem vai ao "Bonfim", minha nêga,
Nunca mais quer voltar.
Muita sorte teve,
Muita sorte tem,
Muita sorte terá
Você já foi à Bahia, nêga?
Então vá!

Lá tem vatapá
Então vá!
Lá tem caruru,
Então vá!
Lá tem munguzá,
Então vá!
Se "quiser sambar"
Então vá!

Nas sacadas dos sobrados
Da velha São Salvador
Há lembranças de donzelas,
Do tempo do Imperador.
Tudo, tudo na Bahia
Faz a gente querer bem
A Bahia tem um jeito,
Que nenhuma terra tem!

Have you been to Bahia?

Have you been to Bahia, tan girl?
Then go!
Once you go, tan girl,
you may never want to return.
It’s a lucky place,
It’s lucky now,
It’ll be lucky in the future, for you!
Have you been to Bahia, tan girl?
Then go!

There they have vatapá*
So you should go!
There has caruru**
Then go!
There has munguzá‡
Then go!
If want to dance the Samba
Then go!

The balconies of houses
In old San Salvador
Remind you of the glory and innocence
Of the Emperor's time.
Everything, everything in Bahia
Makes you feel great.
Bahia has a style
That no other land has!

* Vatapá is a native dish from Brazil made from bread, shrimp, coconut milk, peanuts and palm oil.

** Caruru is a typical condiment in Bahia from okra, palm oil and nuts.

‡ Munguzá is a sweet corn and coconut pudding.

Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht (Liebeslieder Walzer Op. 52, No. 17)

Music by Johannes Brahms

Nicht wandle / mein Licht,
dort außen / Im Flurbereich!

Die Füße würden dir / die zarten / zu naß / zu weich.

All überströmt sind dort die Wege / die Stege dir;

So überreichlich tränte dorten / das Auge mir.

Don't Wander, My Light

Don’t wander, my light,
Don't go walking in the fields!

Your lovely feet would get too wet; too soft.

All the roads are flooded there,
And all the paths too . . .

So overwhelming have been the tears that flowed from my eyes.

iTunes Bonus: Parisian Heartbreak

Music by Richard Galliano
Lyric by Kurt Elling

Love / makes a drifting dream / of moonlight
Love / can make a distant song / from starlight
Love / creates new poetry / most every night
You love – and then love delights.

But time / has a way of dashing moonlight dreams
And tides / create the waves that drown the starlight beams
And poetry / can never be reality
At least / that's what seems to me to be

For I dreamed of you / falling into love, with me
And I wrote a song / and sang to you so tenderly
But nothing in my poems wove into reality
Instead / you just laughed at me.

So now I trust nothing of what love eyes see / of stars / or of poetry
That's the way it has to be / now that love has laughed at me.

iTunes Bonus: Me Jedyne Niebo

Music by Pat Metheny
Polish Lyric by Marcin Kydryński
English Lyric by Kurt Elling

Ja wiem, że zabraknie słów
Ale mimo to chcę pożegnać się
Pomyśl, że dana była nam
Tkliwość, która trwa
Dłużej niż jedno życie

Choć nie obiecuję Ci
Ze powrócę tu
By znów
Dotknąć Twoich ust
Wiedz, że Ty to me jedyne Niebo
Ty to me, Ty to me

My Only Heaven

I know there are no words left
But still, I want to say goodbye.
We were blessed with tenderness
That transcends this one lifetime.

Although I can't promise to return
and touch your lips again
Know forever that you are my only heaven.
You hold me.
You carry me within your memory.