Kurt's News Archive - 2013

For the fourteenth year in a row, Kurt was named Male Vocalist of the Year in the 61st DownBeat Critics Poll, and he got his eighth win in the 78th DownBeat Readers Poll this year!

Kurt received several international awards as well:

Jazz FM - International Jazz Artist of the Year - 2013
Blue Note Milano Award of the Year - 2013

Kurt performed 114 shows in 65 cities in 21 countries this year, and more at sea on The Jazz Cruise in the Caribbean. He also presented several master classes and talks.

KE Touring map 2013

He flew 100,000 miles between January 1 and July 1, including five trips to Europe and one to Japan.

Most of his gigs were with the Kurt Elling Quintet, touring behind his Grammy-nominated 2012 recording, 1619 Broadway - The Brill Building Project.

In March, Kurt also performed with the Modern Art Orchestra in Budapest.

In April, he presented an all Cole Porter show with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. He also performed in Michael Feinstein's Elegant Elling shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

In May he performed in Dublin with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, conducted by Brian Byrne; in Luxembourg with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, conducted by Gast Waltzing; and in Ljubljana, Slovenia with the Big Band & Symphony Orchestra RTV Slovenija, conducted by Michael Abene.

He continued these collaborations with orchestras again in September, performing in Bremen with the Metropole Orkest, conducted by Jules Buckley, and in Berlin with the Bundesjazzorchester (BuJazzO), conducted by Jiggs Whigham and Niels Klein.

In June, he performed in the world premiere of Guy Barker's That Obscure Hurt at the Aleburgh Music Festival in Snapes, England, celebrating Benjamin Britten's centenary. That Obscure Hurt is Barker's musical suite with lyrics by Rob Ryan, based on a short story by Henry James. Other performers included narrator Janie Dee, the BBC Concert Orchestra & the Guy Barker Jazz Orchestra.

In August, the KEQ performed at the Tónica Jazz Festival in Guadalajara, Mexico where Kurt also gave a keynote talk. It was his second visit to Mexico.

In addition to touring with his Quintet, Kurt also performed with:

The Modern Art Orchestra, Istanbul Superband, Aki Yashiro, Regina Carter, Helen Merrill, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Michael Feinstein, Brianna Thomas, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton, Tedd Firth, NJCU Jazz Ensembles, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Big Band & Symphony Orchestra RTV Slovenija, Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer, Guy Barker, Janie Dee, BBC Concert Orchestra, Guy Barker Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Orchestra of Concertgebouw, Metropole Orkest, Fred Hersch, Berta Rojas, Vanessa Rubin, Bundesjazzorchester, Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Allen Toussaint, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Haley Reinhart, and VojtÄ›ch Dyk & the B-Side Band.

November 12th, 2013

Look for fresh faces and sounds from the piano chair in the Kurt Elling Quintet as Kurt and the band reach out for new ideas and fresh perspectives. Gary Versace, Xavier Davis and Gerald Clayton have all been tapped for upcoming gigs. New charts, compositions and sonic atmospheres are already under construction.

Moreover, Kurt is collaborating with the likes of Tommy Smith (Scottish National Jazz Orchestra), Guy Barker (BBC Symphony) and Michael Abene (WDR Orchestra and Big band) on the creation and arrangement of new orchestral music.

Kurt and the rest of the band look forward to expanding their ideas into heretofore unheard areas of exploration. While a transition like this is bittersweet, the time for change is upon us and the creative edge of jazz comes into being anew in each moment.

Please join Kurt in wishing treasured collaborator Laurence Hobgood godspeed as he steps away to lead his own quintet and pursue special projects.

Kurt Elling has been named Male Vocalist of the Year in both the 2013 DownBeat Critics Poll and its Readers Poll. It's a clean sweep!

The 78th Annual Readers Poll results were just announced and will be featured in the December 2013 issue of DownBeat.

The DownBeat Critics Poll results were announced earlier this year.

This is the eighth year Kurt has topped the DownBeat Readers Poll, winning in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, and now 2013.

He's won the top spot in the Critics Poll fourteen years in a row, ever since 2000, which may be an unprecedented achievement.

With 24,552 voters casting ballots, the 2013 DownBeat Readers Poll generated the largest voter turnout to date.

Frank Alkyer, DownBeat's publisher, said,

"DownBeat readers are some of the most sophisticated music listeners in the world, and they proved it again. It's such a pleasure to welcome Pat Metheny into the DownBeat Hall of Fame. And Wayne Shorter's year—with the release of Without A Net and his amazing 80th birthday tour—has been historic. It's no wonder that the readers named him Jazz Artist of the Year and gave him four other wins in the poll.

"But the real beauty of the Readers Poll is the extensive list of names that we publish. There are more than 600 artists who are named in the complete poll results, and 91 great recordings made the list. It's a real snapshot of the vitality, breadth and beauty of the improvised music scene. We're proud to be part of it!"

The complete 2013 DownBeat Readers Poll results are here. They will be also published in the December issue of DownBeat, available on newsstands on November 19.

Thanks to everyone who voted, congratulations to all of the 2013 winners, and bravo to Kurt!

And click here to see Kurt's impressive page of Awards & Recognitions.

Once again, the critics have chosen Kurt Elling as the top male vocalist in the 61th Annual DownBeat Critics Poll!

Kurt has been named the DownBeat Critics Poll Male Vocalist of the Year for fourteen consecutive years, from 2000 through 2013, and he was also awarded Talent Deserving Wider Recognition the preceding four years, from 1997 to 2000.

Frank Alkyer, DownBeat's publisher, remarked,

"The DownBeat Critics Poll represents a dedication to the improvised music community that you will find nowhere else in print or online. We have 165 critics taking considerable time and effort to vote in the poll, and we thank each and every one for those contributions. The results are not just about the winners; they're also about recognizing established and up-and-coming artists from all over the globe. We’re very proud to publish the names of more than 1,000 artists in this year's poll results. It's a list that offers a very comprehensive snapshot of what’s happening musically in 2013."

The complete 2013 DownBeat Critics Poll results are here. They will be also published in the August issue of DownBeat, available on newsstands on July 16.

Congratulations to all of the 2013 winners, and especially to Kurt!

And click here to see Kurt's impressive page of Awards & Recognitions.

July update: Vote today in the DownBeat Readers Poll:

Voting in the 78th DownBeat Readers Poll is now open! Everyone everywhere can vote in this Poll, which is available now on the DownBeat website.

For more details about the Readers Poll and its categories, please see this topic in Kurt's Forum.

On 12 June at the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk, England, Kurt Elling is featured in the world premiere of That Obscure Hurt, composed by arranger and jazz trumpeter Guy Barker in his new role as associate composer for the BBC Concert Orchestra, with lyrics and narrative by author Robert Ryan, narrated by British actress Janie Dee.

The work was co-commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and Aldeburgh Music for this year's Aldeburgh Festival which celebrates the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), who lived in Aldeburgh and founded the Aldeburgh Music Festival in 1948.

That Obscure Hurt tells the story of an expat businessman who voyages back to London to sell his Soho jazz club, but while spending a final night there, he's stopped in his tracks by meeting the ghost of his younger self.

Benjamin Britten wrote two operas based on ghost stories by Henry James, The Turn of the Screw and Owen Wingrave. Guy Barker, working with Robert Ryan, took the completion of a James ghost story trilogy as the starting point for this new work, inspired by Britten. From Ryan's adaptation of James' short story The Jolly Corner, which weaves both jazz and echoes of Britten operas into its colorful fabric, Barker created a new, 70-minute suite for the massive combined forces of jazz and symphony orchestras, the vocalist, and the narrator, taking the audience on a taut and dramatic journey. All told there will be 77 artists on stage!

That Obscure Hurt reimagines James' ghost story, relocating it from an apartment block in New York to a jazz club in Soho. There is a prologue about the dance bands who worked on the transatlantic liners. The Cunard dance bands ("Geraldo's Navy") are legendary in the jazz world - musicians such as Ronnie Scott, John Dankworth and Stan Tracey would sign on with the sole intention of rushing ashore in NYC to hear the new music being played in the clubs of 52nd Street and the Village by modern jazz giants such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell.

Originally there were no songs or spoken narration planned for That Obscure Hurt. But as things developed, Barker began hearing songs, and while experimenting with an idea for the prologue set in NYC, all he could hear in his head was Kurt Elling's voice. And so Kurt was asked to play Harry Prince, singer at The Pagoda nightclub. Then it became apparent that a different form of narration was required in addition to Kurt's vocals, so British actress and mezzo soprano Janie Dee was invited to narrate.

Says Kurt, "I am very happy to be working on this new project with Guy and Robert. They are both excellent craftsmen, and I am honored that they have been creating this piece with my voice in mind."

That Obscure Hurt has numerous allusions to Britten and James. Britten wrote a ballet called The Prince of the Pagodas from which Harry Prince's name and home club are taken. Curlew Rivers, a dissolute jazzman, also appears as a character; Curlew River is one of Britten's church parables.

According to Robert Ryan, "that obscure hurt" refers to the unrequited love Alice feels, and it could also refer to the missing two fingers of the ghostly apparition in The Jolly Corner. Henry James also called the mysterious injury he suffered as a young man his "obscure hurt," which may have led to his lifelong disinterest in marriage.

With all the layers of meaning and mystery, concert goers are in for a superb evening of original music and song!

FREE Pre-performance Talk by Guy Barker, Robert Ryan and Andrew Kurowski at 6:30 pm.

Robert Ryan's programme notes for the ten parts of That Obscure Hurt is available here.

That Obscure Hurt was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. The full concert is now available on their Music Showcase for your listening pleasure. The concert is 1:34:41 long.

World Premiere
12 June 2013
That Obscure Hurt
Featuring Kurt Elling & Janie Dee
Composed by Guy Barker
Lyrics and narration by Robert Ryan
Inspired by Benjamin Britten

Aldeburgh Music Festival
Snape Maltings Concert Hall
Snape, Suffolk IP17 1SP

2013_Blue_Note_Milano_AwardEach year in March, the Blue Note Milano in Milan, Italy honors an outstanding artist for the importance of his/her work & efforts in spreading jazz.

The 2013 Blue Note Milano Award goes to Kurt Elling!

Previous Blue Note Milano Award winners include Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Paolo Fresu, Brad Mehldau, McCoy Tyner, Billy Cobham, and Dee Dee Bridgewater.

The Blue Note Milano is one of the most important and famous European jazz showcases. It's part of The Blue Note family of jazz clubs, along with the historic Blue Note Jazz Club in Greenwich Village, New York City, and the Blue Note in Tokyo and in Nagoya, Japan.

The Blue Note Milano celebrates its tenth anniversary on March 19, 2013.

Congratulazioni di cuore a Blue Note Milano & many congratulations to Kurt!


At the first-ever Jazz FM Awards ceremony in London on Thursday, January 31, Kurt Elling was named International Jazz Artist of the Year for 2013!

Other nominees for the international honor were Sonny Rollins and Brad Mehldau.

The Jazz FM Awards also honored fellow Chicagoan Ramsey Lewis, who received the Gold Award for Outstanding Contribution to Jazz, and Ahmad Jamal, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Richard Wheatly, chief executive of Jazz FM said, "We are delighted to announce the Jazz FM Awards, and are thrilled that Klipsch is sponsoring them. The awards celebrate everything that is great about jazz – past, present and future – something we are hugely positive about. This annual event will help bring the music to a new audience and will create a focal point for the jazz community."

Ahmad Jamal brought the inaugural Jazz FM Awards to an exultant close at the former church, One Marylebone, in central London with a brief set featuring "Blue Moon," on which he was joined by singer Jamie Cullum, who added his distinctive vocals to the standard.

Hosted by singer Ian Shaw who also performed, the awards evening included music by The London Youth Gospel Choir, Cerys Matthews, Ramsey Lewis, Carleen Anderson, Nathaniel Facey, Ahmad Jamal and Jamie Cullum. Presenters included Jazz FM's Helen Mayhew and David Freeman, Courtney Pine CBE, and Suggs of the band Madness.

Jazz FM is the most listened to jazz station in the world. The new Jazz FM Awards have received widespread support from both inside the jazz community and from farther afield, since the BBC discontinued their annual awards.

The full list of winners is here.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees, and especially to Kurt!

Once again, Kurt Elling has been named Best Male Vocalist in the JazzTimes Readers' Poll, and 1619 Broadway - The Brill Building Project was voted Best New Release! Kurt was also a runner-up for Best Artist of the Year.

In addition, 1619 Broadway - The Brill Building Project made the JazzTimes Critics List of the Top 50 Releases for 2012.

JazzTimes calls its readers "the real experts on the best in the previous year in jazz," and clearly they have great taste, too.

The full Readers' Poll results are here and are featured in the January-Feburary 2013 issue of JazzTimes.

This is the eighth time Kurt has topped the JazzTimes Readers' Poll, winning in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008, 2010, 2011, and now 2012.

As always, congratulations to all the winners -- and especially to Kurt!