Kurt's News Archive - 2014

Saxophonist Jimmy Greene's new release, Beautiful Life on Mack Avenue Records, is a celebration of the life of his 6-year-old daughter, Ana Márquez-Greene, whose life was tragically taken, along with 19 other children and 6 educators, on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Greene said that he wants "the music to reflect the way that Ana lived," so for the first time he decided to weave lyrics and singers into the flow on one of his recordings.

"Ana loved to sing and listen to singers, and had a wonderful singing voice," he explains. "So an album dedicated to her memory needed to have singers and songs that were important to her and me and my family."

In a penetrating, heartbreaking, and graceful interpretation, Kurt Elling performs "Ana's Way," along with the Linden Christian School Early Years Choir, comprised of Ana's & her brother Isaiah's former classmates from Winnipeg.

"It was brutal seeing Ana's friends again, without Ana there amongst them,"
Greene says. "But we got through it somehow, and I think the results are very touching."

Said Kurt,

"I was humbled and grateful to be asked to be a part of this important project. I have known Jimmy as a well-respected musician for several years, but his example as a man of faith and personal strength is what takes center stage here. The healing nature of music has only rarely been brought to bear more clearly in a jazz context. I sincerely encourage all my friends and fans to join me in supporting Beautiful Life."

Said Jimmy, "Kurt's amazing talent and huge heart are such a big part of the success of the recording."

"In the days after my daughter was killed, playing and writing music wasn't even a thought," the 39-year-old saxophonist says. "I was very much in shock, grieving deeply and trying to just function coherently. Family and friends surrounded us and held us up, and we received 10,000 communications — emails, texts, Facebook messages, voice calls, letters — from people around the world.

The community of musicians was front and center for that support. When I called, they responded, 'Whatever you need, just say the word, and I'll be there.'"

Beautiful Life opens with a recording of Ana singing the traditional "Saludos" ("Greetings") at a Christmas celebration (parranda) in Puerto Rico with her mother Nelba Márquez-Greene's family — and her father playing in the background — a year before her death. Greene segues to a section in which he and guitarist Pat Metheny perform "Come Thou Almighty King" before concluding with another family recording of Ana singing the hymn to her brother Isaiah's piano accompaniment.


The wistful "Last Summer," a quartet feature, evokes Greene's impressions of the photograph of his children — captured from the rear with their arms around each other's shoulders in the family's backyard in Winnipeg, Canada, where Greene taught at the University of Manitoba between 2009 and 2012 — that appears on the cover of Beautiful Life.

The mellow tenor voice of Javier Colon, Greene's one-time classmate at the Hartt School of Music, delivers Greene's lyric for "When I Come Home" supported by the quartet, Greene's signifying tenor saxophone, and the strings.

Next is Kurt performance of "Ana's Way," along with the Linden Christian School Early Years Choir, one of the featured vocal tracks on the album. Greene and pianist Renee Rosnes distill the oceanic emotions of the lyric.

Pianist Kenny Barron joins Greene for conversational readings of the Broadway songs "Where Is Love?" from Oliver and "Maybe" from Annie, the latter featuring Greene's pure-toned soprano saxophone. "Kenny, Christian [McBride] and Lewis [Nash] were the rhythm section for the 1996 Thelonious Monk Competition, where I was named first runner-up," Greene recalls. "They made me feel welcomed and comfortable, that I could do this for my life, and so I wanted them involved."

"My daughter loved Annie, and would sing 'Maybe' a cappella with great pitch and rhythm in the back of the car when we were driving around," Greene recalls. He includes "Where Is Love?" in homage to Jackie McLean, his primary musical mentor, who showed Greene (then 15) the melody at their first meeting at Hartford's Artists Collective.

The penultimate track of Beautiful Life, titled "Prayer," is Greene's musical setting of the text of the "Lord's Prayer." Cyrus Chestnut accompanies Greene's devotional tenor saxophone; illuminating the message is Latanya Farrell (whom Greene met while attending Hartt), whose powerful contralto enchanted Ana as a toddler.

Ana became a fan of Anika Noni Rose — a high school classmate of Greene's in Bloomfield, Connecticut — after hearing her inhabit the role of Princess Tiana in the animated film The Princess and the Frog. Rose's recitation of Greene's optimistic soliloquy "Little Voices" precedes another appearance by the Linden Children's Choir.

"Many people have asked what they can do to help, and this is my answer," Greene says.

"Let's remember what happened at Sandy Hook. We can each hold up our end of the bargain, which is to somehow learn to love ourselves, and then see past ourselves and love our neighbor. That's pretty simple, but if we all did it, I think our existence would be different.

"The last lyrics you hear on the album are 'Remember me, remember me,' over and over again," says Greene. "I want Ana to be remembered. I want what happened here to be remembered so that we do something."

Jimmy Greene talked with Craig Lemoult about Ana and recording Beautiful Life on NPR's All Things Considered. Listen here.

* * * * *

A portion of the proceeds from Beautiful Life will be donated to the following charities in Ana's name:

The Ana Grace Project of Klingberg Family Centers - initiated by Greene's wife Nelba, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, to promote love, community and connection for every child and family through partnerships with schools, mental health providers, community organizations and faith leaders.

The Artists Collective - where generations of children and families in Greater Hartford have gained access to world-class training in the arts.

To order, please visit Amazon or iTunes.


American soprano Renée Fleming's first-ever holiday album celebrates the beloved and iconic Christmas season in New York City. From the holiday windows lining 5th Avenue to the red and green-lit spire of the Empire State Building, the essence of the city at the most wonderful time of year is captured on Christmas in New York.

A richly collaborative recording, Christmas in New York finds Fleming singing with a relaxed intimacy and freedom distinct from her soaring classical voice.

Christmas_in_New_York_coverHoliday evergreens and nostalgic favorites are both featured with fresh arrangements, and Fleming is joined by a wish list of guests from jazz, pop and Broadway, including Kurt Elling, Wynton Marsalis, Brad Mehldau, Gregory Porter, Chris Botti, Kelli O'Hara, and Rufus Wainwright.

Kurt Elling and Renée Fleming perform two beautiful selections together, "Snowbound" and the traditional Austrian carol, "Still, Still, Still."

Says Kurt,

"Working with Renée Fleming was a real joy for me. I think you will all agree that that Renee has had a definitive role in the life of beauty in the first part of this century. Her work in operas, in recitals and concerts has justifiably enthralled millions. Being a small part of her journey as a singing artist as she finds her way in alternate genres has been an honor."
Fleming comments, "I listen copiously to singers from all walks of life. I'm still a jazz fan, and the music of Kurt Elling, Brad Mehldau, and Bill Carrothers are constants, and Joni Mitchell will remain a touchstone." Kurt's Flirting With Twilight is on her Amazon list of Music You Should Hear.

Explaining the sound and sensibility of Christmas in New York, Fleming says, "New York City is where I live and where I spend my holidays – and I think it's an ideal place for fully experiencing what the holidays can mean. The mix of such a wide range of cultures, coming together in a spirit of celebration, is rare and truly heartwarming. It's a time when both New Yorkers and visitors make time to appreciate what makes the city so special."

An exclusive recording artist with Decca since 1995, Renée Fleming is known mostly as an opera singer with a career has encompassed numerous genres and styles. Last February, Fleming became the first classical singer in history to perform the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, and her superb rendition was enjoyed by more than 111.5 million viewers in the US.

The intimate voice Fleming uses for Christmas in New York may sound new to some opera fans, but has always been there.

"I sang with a jazz trio when I was still a student, and a lot of this music felt like going back to my roots," she explains. "I had hoped to sing jazz given the success it had given me during my undergraduate education, but while at the Eastman School afterwards, the opportunities didn't present themselves, and I fell in love with the study and pursuit of classical music.

"In singing these holiday songs, I remembered how to relax, how to be free, how to move with the music. I found new colors in my voice, a new lightness. These songs move between the worlds of pop, jazz, and roots music, in arrangements that are fresh and different.  When you're a bit stressed-out during the hustle and bustle of the season, my hope is that you can put this album on, kick your shoes off, pour yourself a drink and just unwind."

Check out this lovely video introducing Christmas in New York.

On December 4, Fleming's PBS holiday special premieres at 9pm ET (please check local listings for other broadcasts of this December pledge special).

Joined by select guests from the album, including Kurt Elling, Kelli O'Hara, Gregory Porter and Rufus Wainwright, the show features musical performances and storytelling about family, food, traditions and more.  Renée's daughters and sister also join her for heartwarming carols by the fireside.


1. Winter Wonderland - Renée Fleming & Wynton Marsalis
2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Renée Fleming & Gregory Porter
3. Silver Bells - Renée Fleming & Kelli O Hara
4. Merry Christmas Darling - Renée Fleming & Chris Botti
5. Christmas Waltz - Renée Fleming
6. Who Knows Where the Time Goes - Renée Fleming & Brad Mehldau
7. Sleigh Ride - Renée Fleming & Wynton Marsalis
8. Snowbound - Renée Fleming & Kurt Elling
9. In the Bleak Midwinter - Renée Fleming & Rufus Wainwright
10. Central Park Serenade - Renée Fleming & Gregory Porter
11. The Man with the Bag - Renée Fleming
12. Love and Hard Times - Renée Fleming & Brad Mehldau
13. Still, Still, Still - Renée Fleming & Kurt Elling
14. Bonus track (iTunes only) New York Tendaberry - Renée Fleming & Yo-Yo Ma

Renée Fleming's elegant persona, along with the intimate arrangements of holiday classics, makes this album perfect for holiday parties, stocking stuffers and as a treasured holiday gift!

Order from Amazon.

Order from iTunes.

Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, acclaimed contemporary dance company Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and legendary improvisational comedy enterprise The Second City are among the performers at the Chicago's inaugural Fifth Star Awards on Wednesday, September 17 at 7:00 pm.

Presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), the FREE show at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park features a diverse lineup of live performances and video tributes for this year's honorees: Lou Conte, Richard Hunt, Ramsey Lewis, Lois Weisberg and the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.

Grammy winner Kurt Elling is among the world's foremost jazz vocalists. He topped the DownBeat Critics Poll for an unprecedented 14 straight years and has been named Male Singer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions. Every one of Elling's 10 albums has been nominated for a Grammy. He is performing in tribute to Ramsey Lewis.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is among the most original forces in contemporary dance. As one of the only professional dance companies to perform year-round, Hubbard Street is continually touring nationwide and internationally. Now in its 37th year, the main company has appeared in celebrated dance venues in 44 states and 19 countries. They are performing in tribute to Lou Conte. Legendary dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp is among the presenters at the event, also in tribute to Lou Conte.

The Second City is the leading brand in improv-based sketch comedy. With theatres in Chicago and Toronto, Training Centers in those cites as well as Hollywood, 11 full-time touring ensembles, thriving corporate communications and theatricals divisions as well as television and film operations, The Second City has been called "A Comedy Empire" by the New York Times. They are performing in tribute to Lois Weisberg.

This year's honorees include five Chicago artists, arts advocates and cultural institutions:

  • Lou Conte is a dancer, choreographer and founder of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago -- among the world's top contemporary dance companies and a global cultural ambassador, celebrating its 37th season in 2014/2015.
  • An internationally renowned sculptor, Richard Hunt has completed more public sculptures than any other artist in the United States.
  • A Grammy-winning jazz composer, pianist and radio personality, Ramsey Lewis has recorded over 80 albums.
  • Lois Weisberg was Chicago's cultural affairs commissioner for over 20 years and served as head of the Mayor's Office of Special Events; she created the Gallery 37 job training program in the arts, Taste of Chicago, the Chicago Blues Festival and the Chicago Gospel Music Festival, among others.
  • And the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, was the first home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Opera Company; today, the National Historic Landmark designed by the famous architectural team of Adler and Sullivan hosts more than 200 performances and events - and more than a quarter of a million visitors - every year.

Fifth Star Awards coincides with EXPO CHICAGO, The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art (September 18-21), and EXPO ART WEEK, a citywide showcase of Chicago's art and cultural community (September 15-21).

September 12th, 2014

2014_Edison_Jazz_World_logoAt the start of this year's North Sea Jazz Festival, the Edison Foundation announced that Kurt Elling is the 2014 winner of the prestigious Edison Jazz Oeuvreprijs, the Edison's Lifetime Achievement Award for Jazz!

The Edison is the Dutch equivalent of the Grammy, the German ECHO, and the UK Brit Awards. It's one of the oldest music awards in the world; only the Grammy is older by one year.

Previously Kurt won the 2011 Edison Award for Vocal Jazz for The Gate.

Edison_Awards_statueNamed in tribute to Thomas Alva Edison, there are three award categories: Edison Jazz/World, Edison Pop, and Edison Klassiek (Classical), each with its own professional jury. There are only four annual Edison Jazz/World awards, plus one for best DVD and one for Special Historical Edition. The Edison award is a bronze statue made by sculptor Pieter d'Hont.

On Thursday, November 27, 2014, the Edison Jazz/World Awards Gala takes place in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Kurt will perform with the Metropole Orkest, conducted by Jules Buckley, and the other Edison winners, yet to be announced, will perform as well. For concert information and tickets, click here.

Bravo and many congratulations to Kurt for this great honor!

2014 begins in bold style for The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO) with yet another adventurous collaboration – this time with the world's foremost jazz vocalist, Kurt Elling.

Together they present Syntopicon, a concert exploring life's philosophies through music.


Kurt Elling is an international star, whose rich baritone voice spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. Using his extraordinary skills in vocalese, scat and the spoken word, Kurt warmly communicates with his audience while self-penned lyrics are more than a companion to the melody. They are words expressed as notes, and notes expressed as words...and every word counts.

"Syntopicon" - a portmanteau, a grab-bag of ideas, or group of topics - is music to embrace and deliver universal ideas through intelligent words, wonderful music and breathtaking song extolling in equal measures the vicissitudes of Love, Life, Joy, Beauty, Knowledge, Language and Courage.

Fresh arrangements specially commissioned by the SNJO will give free reign to Elling's highly cultivated use of vocalese – the creation of new song based on improvised melody.

From Bernstein's euphoric and youthful West Side Story to Paul Simon's mid-west, mid life crisis, American Tune or taking a spin in John Scofield's Jeep on 35, audiences will love the diversity of material. There's a place too for the internationalism of Vince Mendoza's Esperanto; a chance to Go on one of Wayne Shorter's stellar excursions; and time to enjoy the quietness of still waters in a "boat song" very much closer to home.

The vision is as celebratory as it is revelatory. Some of the most admired works of Mingus, Monk, Ellington, Pastorius and Shorter are on offer having been arranged by some of the foremost jazz arrangers worldwide at present. Geoffrey Keezer, Michael Abene, Bob Mintzer. Tommy Smith and Jim McNeely have all contributed to this great evening of wonderful music, breath-taking song and shared experience – surely to be a jazz highlight of 2014!

21 February 2014
Perth Concert Hall

Mill Street
Perth PH1 5HZ, Scotland

22 February 2014
The Queens Hall

85-89 Clerk Street
Edinburgh EH8 9JG, Scotland

23 February 2014
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

100 Renfrew Street
Glasgow G2 3DB, Scotland

All Concerts start at 7.30 pm. There is a free pre-concert talk with Kurt and Tommy at 6.45 pm.

Syntopicon programme:

Language: Esperanto
Arr. Michael Abene
Music by Vince Mendoza
Lyrics by Kurt Elling

Good & Evil: Go
Arr. Christian Jacob
Music by Wayne Shorter
Lyrics by Kurt Elling

Knowledge / Wisdom: Duke Ellington's Sound of Love
Arr. Tommy Smith
Music by Charles Mingus
Lyrics by Lena Seikaly

Knowledge / Wisdom: American Tune
Arr. Christian Elsässer
Music & Lyrics by Paul Simon

Love / Beauty: Somewhere from West Side Story
Arr. Geoffrey Keezer
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Joy: Green Chimneys
Arr. John Clayton
Music by Thelonious Monk

Life and Death: They Speak No Evil

Arr. Bob Mintzer
Music by Wayne Shorter
Vocalese by Kurt Elling

Courage: Jeep on 35
Arr. Jim McNeeley
Music by John Scofield
Vocalese by Nina Clark

Love / Beauty: Loch Tay Boat Song
Arr. Florian Ross
Lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton

Idea / God: 3 Views Of A Secret
Arr. Fred Sturm
Music by Jaco Pastorius
Lyrics by Kurt Elling

Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling returns to the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage for a Valentine's Concert at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, following the dedication of the new Cleve Carney Art Gallery at the College's Glen Ellyn campus, 425 Fawell Blvd.

Backed by a four-piece combo including Xavier Davis (piano), Clark Sommers (bass), John McLean (guitar) and Kendrick Scott (drums), Elling will perform a mix of works, including selections from his most recent album, "1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project." Inspired by classic American pop music composed in the iconic Brill Building during the 1950s and '60s, the album features Elling's rendition of such popular songs as Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes for You" and Van Heusen & Cahn's "Come Fly With Me."

Elling, son-in-law of the late Cleve Carney, performs following the 3 p.m. dedication of the MAC's new Cleve Carney Art Gallery.

"I am proud to have a small role in the opening of the Cleve Carney Art Gallery at College of DuPage," he said. "Nothing befits Cleve's legacy more and I am happy to share the stage this afternoon with some of the works of visual art that Cleve loved most."

Those attending the dedication will have the opportunity to view the gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Selection of Artworks from the Cleve Carney Collection," which runs Feb. 6 through March 29. This diverse selection of paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, photography and digital media includes work by such renowned artists as Mel Bochner, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Cat Chow, Julia Fish, John Fraser, Pia Fries, Leon Golub, Arturo Hererra, Jenny Holzer, Markus Linnenbrink, Judy Ledgerwood, Robert Motherwell, Jim Nutt, Catherine Opie, Roxy Paine, John Phillips, Karen Reimer, Aurora Robson, David Shrigley, Ann Wilson, and Zhou Brothers.

Admission to the dedication is free and open to the public. For more information about the Cleve Carney Art Gallery, visit: www.cod.edu/gallery.

Tickets to Kurt Elling's performance are $44. For more information, visit the MAC Ticket office at: www.atthemac.org.