The New York Times is one of numerous publications to declare that Kurt Elling is the "standout male vocalist of our time," and The Gate, Elling's follow-up to his Grammy-winning Dedicated to You, is among his strongest albums – and perhaps the finest of his career.…read more

Produced by Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan), The Gate is a musical collection in which boundaries cease to exist, a sensibility enhanced by producer Don Was, who had expressed the desire to work with Elling – an opportunity which Elling found irresistible.

"I first heard Kurt on the local jazz station and was knocked out by his exotic blend of soul, technique, intelligence and charismatic hipness," Was recalls. "He made this diverse collection of songs his own – and we had a blast."

"What Don brought to this project," said Elling, "was his love of music and musicians, and a confidence that liberated us from all concern. He is the consummate producer and this was an extraordinary experience – my favorite in a studio."

The Gate points Elling in a new and satisfyingly emotional direction. He has somehow found a way to make a deeply personal statement out of the music of King Crimson, Joe Jackson, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles – in addition to providing a new and vibrant understanding of Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock.

That Elling is first and foremost a jazz singer makes the work searching and enthralling. His phrasing is cool and meditative as he ventures into areas usually reserved for instrumentalists. As a lyricist, Elling breathes new life into gems previously known only for their melodies. "His words are informed by a powerful poetic spirit," said poet and Bollingen Prize winner Robert Creeley. "Kurt Elling takes us into a world of sacred particulars."

The Gate features longtime associate Laurence Hobgood on piano, Bob Mintzer on sax, John McLean on guitar, John Patitucci on bass, and two drummers, Terreon Gulley and Kobie Watkins – in addition to percussionist Lenny Castro. Said Elling, "The musicians on this recording inspired me to be... better."

Elling developed his four-octave baritone in church choirs and later emerged on the national jazz scene in 1995 when Blue Note released Close Your Eyes. He made his Concord Records debut in 2007 with Nightmoves. All eight of his albums have been nominated for Grammys.

The Gate closes with a song that represents Elling's continued dedication to exploring jazz's past and blazing a trail for its future. Composed by the late Don Grolnick, "Nighttown, Lady Bright" features spoken words written by Duke Ellington and additional lyrics by Elling, who wished to close the album with a cinematic depiction of a jazz musician's life.

Said The Washington Post, "Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling. With his soaring vocal flights, his edgy lyrics and sense of being on a musical mission, he has come to embody the creative spirit in jazz."

That spirit is in rich evidence on The Gate – and a musical feast awaits those who pass through.

Release date: February 8, 2011

[ click here for printable The Gate bio ]

…close
Kurt Elling
voice
Bob Mintzer
tenor saxophone
John McLean
guitar
Laurence Hobgood
piano
John Patitucci
bass
Terreon Gulley
drums, percussion
(1, 3-5, 8 & 9)
Kobie Watkins
drums (2, 5, 7)
Lenny Castro
percussion (2, 3, 5, 6)
1Matte Kudasai  
2Steppin' Out  
3Come Running To Me  
4Norwegian Wood  
5Blue In Green  
6Samurai Cowboy lyrics  
7After The Love Has Gone  
8Golden Lady  
9Nighttown, Lady Bright  
10iTunes bonus: Waking the DreamClock lyrics  
Samurai Cowboy

Music by Marc Johnson
Lyric by Kurt Elling

You dig /everything in life / everything you've seen
Everywhere you've been / you have been thinking all of the time

Everything that's happened to you / has been made or construed to brood
At least passively in the life of the mind

You dig / memory is such / nothing gets away
Everything you touch / finds a place / deep inside your inner clutch

And it seems gigantical scenes / pouring in from your outer dreams
Wrinkle mental stuff in your own skully hutch

And once you think it / naught you can do to stop / you've simply got to cop
Nevertheless the thought can really wig you

Like sometimes I'll / go for a run / there's nothing I expect to run to
When all of the sudden the thought begins / a feeling like in my brain there lives an alien / And it gets funky then

Then I think / maybe I am just a little man in a space capsule
Riding 'round in a balloon / deep down inside my head
(Some big old giant's head - dig?)

I'm driving the running / the motion sequence of running and pushing and Pumping the oxygen deep in the plumbing / sumping on to some-way
Some-how keep on moving the giant / keeping him pliant

Right now an arch-typical synap-tically of light / a firing anatomical hit
Is right now getting down / dig?
Shooting a rapid-fire sparkle-chemical in the atmosphere, here

& thinking that I'm thinking of thinking / only makes me think a kink
In a way / that only goes to cite that Descartes was right!

You dig /everything in life / everything you've seen
Everywhere you've been / you have been thinking all of the time

Everything that's happened to you / has been made or construed to brood
At least passively in the life of the mind

You dig / memory is such / nothing gets away
Everything you touch / finds a place / deep inside your inner clutch

And it seems gigantical scenes / pouring in from your outer dreams
Wrinkle mental stuff in your own skully hutch

Such!

iTunes bonus: Waking the DreamClock

Music by Joe Zawinul
Lyric by Kurt Elling and Phil Gladston

Come / sit by my side a minute
We've been walking in a waking dream / forever, it seems

Everything known is living and dying in equal parts
Everything that's light and dark is the heart of it / together

Even the saddest of endings / has in it seeds of another start
Another chance to make another mark in it
To begin in now and shoot upright / finding always in the stars

Stand your ground with me / hold on to what wants to be
You're empty now / right down to your favorite memory
Of long ago and far away / a lost and faded day

Sing your secrets out / the crying, laughing and lonely shout
I'll still hear your song / long after the crowds have come and gone

Why can't we just break free / free to be a wild new gravity
Time can bend / just you wait and see
Hope depends on suffering fools like you and me

This longest night can never stay / day's just a dawn away

And what is light but the love we make?