Kurt's News Archive - 2016

Upward Spiral - Grammy nominated

On December 6 when the 59th annual Grammy nominations were announced, Upward Spiral (OKeh Records/Sony Music Masterworks), by the Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal category!

Every track on Upward Spiral confirms the beyond-category strengths of both the Quartet and Elling. "No one in the band had to make adjustments, because good musicians can play many styles of music," Marsalis notes. "We're fully engaged with one another when we're playing, so it was easy to engage with Kurt. The only adjustment was not to play long solos, but if making the music sound good means playing less, you play less."

Elling adds that "My thing is always about tailoring what I do to the vision and personality of the band, and Branford's quartet is a real working band, which is both an incredible luxury and incredibly important for the music. They provided everything on a silver platter."

The goal from the outset was to create a true partnership. "I usually reject the word 'collaboration,'" Marsalis admits, "because it implies a third thing from that which each collaborator does well. I don't need a collaborator to do what I normally do, and Kurt doesn't, either. But this time, none of us were going to do what we normally do. The goal here, even though he sings lyrics, was to highlight Kurt's voice as an instrument."

For Marsalis, Upward Spiral is consistent with all of his previous music. "My philosophy of jazz is that it should be about strong melodies and a great beat, and every song here has a melody that you can hold in your mind, that you can sing. This is not jazz as a personal think tank, where people are only concerned with impressing everyone already inside of the tank with deconstruction and reharmonization. This is the kind of music that should expand our base to include people who would like jazz if it were friendlier. From the minute Kurt started performing with us, it was all good."

As Dan Bilawsky wrote for All About Jazz:

Whether on or off the bandstand, Marsalis doesn't mince words or ideas. Due to that fact, few vocalists are really up to the challenge of entering his orbit and thriving in such a climate. In Elling, however, Marsalis has found one who's every bit his match. The saxophonist and his quartet mates are able to telescope focus toward Elling's warm, strong, and pliant voice, and Elling is able to accentuate the inherently melodic and lyrical qualities in this group's work. The beauty in Marsalis' music isn't cited often enough, as many tend to focus exclusively on the edgier side of his sound. This project rectifies that problem.

While there are far more ambitious outings in the respective discographies of both of these marquee names, there's nothing more arresting in either man's portfolio. Beauty becomes these musicians. They carry the torch of grace to the heavens in their own inimitable upward spiral.

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held February 12, 2017 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on CBS.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling resumes their extensive Upward Spiral tour in January 2017.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Branford Marsalis formed his own quartet in 1986. Known for the telepathic communication among its uncommonly consistent personnel, its deep book of original music replete with expressive melodies and provocative forms, and an unrivaled spirit in both live and recorded performances, the Branford Marsalis Quartet has long been recognized as the standard to which other ensembles of its kind must be measured.

Marsalis is a three-time Grammy winner, and (together with his father and brothers) was named Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2010.

Grammy winner Kurt Elling won the DownBeat Critics Poll for fourteen consecutive years and was named "Male Singer of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions. An international jazz award winner, this is his eleventh Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

As always, bountiful congratulations to Kurt Elling and the Branford Marsalis Quartet – Branford Marsalis, saxophones; Joey Calderazzo, piano; Eric Revis, bass; and Justin Faulkner, drums!

On November 25, 2016, Live From Lincoln Center on PBS television presented the internationally acclaimed pianist Lang Lang and his love letter to New York, the city he considers his adoptive home, set to the music that helped make this city so famous.

This very special one-night only concert was performed at Lincoln Center on May 3, 2016.

Embracing a wide range of styles and voices to capture New York's magic, Lang Lang's New York Rhapsody featured music from Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Danny Elfman to Lou Reed, Alicia Keys, and Don Henley, including a rare performance of the original 1924 jazz band arrangement of George Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue."

Lang Lang & his special guests

Joining Lang Lang in an intimate evening of duets were celebrated artists Rufus Wainwright, Kurt Elling, Suzanne Vega, Regina Spektor, Andra Day, Lindsey Stirling, Sean Jones, Jerry Douglas, and Lisa Fischer, with a 30-piece orchestra under the musical direction by David Lai.

Lang Lang & his special guests

Kurt Elling's superb performance of Don Henley's "New York Minute" was one of the evening's highlights.

Watch Kurt and Lang Lang perform "New York Minute" here:

The pianist Lang Lang has been hailed as one of the greatest classical performers of our time - an artist whose virtuosity and passion are matched by his consummate sense of showmanship. Lang Lang's New York Rhapsody is the complex portrait of a city in transition, delivered in words and music by artists who have been touched by its unsettling magic.

Watch the full Live From Lincoln Center concert video with bonus interviews here.

Live From Lincoln Center: Lang Lang's New York Rhapsody is also available on DVD.

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In the lead up to Live From Lincoln Center broadcast, PBS released a series of short videos featuring Lang Lang's special guests. In his video, Kurt Elling talks about jazz spots in Greenwich Village and performs "Billie's Bounce" with pianist Bill Charlap at Mezzrow.

Watch it here.

(Unfortunately PBS has not made this short video available in all countries - our apologies!)

The Beautiful Day Tour 2016

The Kurt Elling Quintet, with Kurt Elling (voice), Stu Mindeman (piano), Clark Sommers (bass), John McLean (guitar), and Ulysses Owens (drums), takes The Beautiful Day: Kurt Elling Sings Christmas on tour, beginning with the CD Release Celebration at New York's Birdland from October 26-29, and then continuing in Europe in November.

They'll also perform holiday concerts in December at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston and The Hamilton in Washington, DC.

For all the tour details and ticket links, please see:

The Beautiful Day 2016 Tour Dates

Kurt Elling's First Holiday Album, Released Worldwide October 28, 2016 on OKeh Records/Sony Music Masterworks

Previews of The Beautiful Day
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The Beautiful Day 2016 Tour Dates

The Beautiful Day
When Kurt Elling embraced the meaning, the spirit and the word Christmas in creating his new album The Beautiful Day: Kurt Elling Sings Christmas (OKeh), he also wanted to make a holiday album that celebrates the promise and magical energy of the Christmas season that touches people of all faiths and beliefs. Inventive and fresh, The Beautiful Day reimagines the sounds of Christmas, mixing traditional carols decked out in new arrangements with songs that are revelations and rediscovered treats.

While its vibrant pedigree is jazz, The Beautiful Day allowed Elling's imagination to range far and wide in finding the right songs to hit what he called "the sweet spot." Elling created the arrangements himself, with pianist Stuart Mindeman and his longtime collaborators, guitarist John McLean, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Kendrick Scott.
Kurt Elling
"In the Western world, whether you're a Christian or not, Christmas has some kind of seasonal relevance to you," Elling said. "You can't really escape the holiday – even if it's just coming at you on television … For me, the holiday comes enriched with a lot of beautiful personal memories. It also comes freighted with the knowledge that millions of other people around the world carry their own memories, and not all those are of happy occasions. So it was daunting to take on something with so much history and resonance. I hope that with this material I found the sweet spot."

Included on The Beautiful Day are traditional carols – "Little Drummer Boy" and "We Three Kings" – in striking new arrangements, as well as the wistful folk-rock of Dan Fogelberg ("Same Old Lang Syne") and the jazz-and-gospel-influenced soul of Donny Hathaway ("This Christmas"). A trio of popular contemporary Christmas songs - Terre Roche's "Star of Wonder," Alfred Burt & Wihla Hutson's "Some Children See Him," and Claude & Ruth Thornhill's "Snowfall" – are heard, as well as a recent arrival, "The Snow is Deep on the Ground" by John Hollenbeck & Kenneth Patchen. Elling also created a new song ("The Michigan Farm"), writing lyrics to a melody by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

A charming rediscovery on The Beautiful Day is a handful of songs – including the album's title track, with a vocal by Elling's daughter Luiza – from Leslie Bricusse's Oscar-nominated but often overlooked score for the film musical Scrooge (1970), based on Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Throughout The Beautiful Day, the beloved Czech carol "Wenceslas" – with its tale of Christmas love and generosity of spirit – appears three times, the basis for strikingly different musical impressions of the atmosphere of Christmas.

"It's a funny thing, going in to make a Christmas record – a strange, exhilarating, challenging thing – especially when your father was a church musician, as mine was, and so much of your childhood was based around the church calendar and preparing music for religious observances," Elling said. "The music on this album has meaning; it's inclusive; it's seasonal, by which I mean the actual season of winter in North America; and it has a little bit of searching weight to it – avoiding, I hope, the usual seasonal cliché."

Release date: October 28, 2016

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★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Track listing:

Sing a Christmas Carol
Leslie Bricusse; arranged by John McLean, Kurt Elling

Wenceslaus (Image I)
Traditional; arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

Star of Wonder
Terre Roche; arranged by Stuart Mindeman

We Three Kings
John Henry Hopkins, Jr.; additional lyrics by Tori Amos
arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

Christmas Children
Leslie Bricusse; arranged by Clark Sommers

Wenceslaus (Image II)
Traditional; arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

Some Children See Him
Alfred Burt, music / Wihla Hutson, lyrics; arranged by John McLean

Little Drummer Boy
Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati, Harry Simeone; arranged by Kurt Elling

Wenceslaus (Image III)
Traditional; arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

The Michigan Farm (Cradle Song, Op. 41/1)
Edvard Grieg, music / Kurt Elling lyrics; arranged by Stuart Mindeman

The Snow is Deep on the Ground / Snowfall
John Hollenbeck, music / Kenneth Patchen, poetry / Archie Randolph Ammons, poetry
Claude Thornhill, music / Ruth Thornhill, lyrics
arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

Same Old Lang Syne
Dan Fogelberg; arranged by Stuart Mindeman

This Christmas
Donny Hathaway, music / Nadine McKinnor, lyrics; arranged by Stuart Mindeman

The Beautiful Day
Leslie Bricusse; arranged by John McLean

GRAMMY-winning, world-renowned jazz singer Kurt Elling has just signed a recording contract with OKeh/Sony Music Masterworks.

His forthcoming album, The Beautiful Day, is set to release on October 28, 2016. It will be Elling's first release on OKeh, as well as his first holiday album.

Regarded as one of the world's foremost jazz vocalists, Elling won the DownBeat Critics Poll for fourteen consecutive years and was named "Male Singer of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions. An international jazz award winner, Elling has also been GRAMMY nominated a dozen times. His most recent works include the full length album, Upward Spiral with Branford Marsalis, and a live performance of "New York Minute" with the superstar pianist Lang Lang for the upcoming PBS special Live from Lincoln Center.

Elling's rich baritone spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which are springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word, and poetry.

He is regarded by The New York Times as "...the standout male vocalist of our time." The Washington Post adds, "Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling."

Of the signing Elling says, "I am very excited about starting a new relationship with OKeh. OKeh A&R head, Wulf Muller, reminds me of the late Bruce Lundvall in his enthusiasm for the music and his love for his artists. Wulf has been a friend of mine for years and I know that I will have his full support moving forward - both as an artist and a business partner.”

The new album will be supported by a tour across Europe and the East Coast, USA.

Sony Music Masterworks comprises Masterworks, Sony Classical, OKeh, Portrait, Masterworks Broadway and Flying Buddha imprints.

The Grammy Award-winning vocalist recommends cultural highlights in the Windy City

I live in New York now, but I still love Chicago – it's my hometown. In Chicago, I feel like I know the stories, where the ghosts hang out, and I don't get that in Manhattan. I'd say to anyone visiting for the first time that it is visually glorious. If you are interested in architecture, you've got Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, the Bauhaus stuff, Louis Sullivan (who mentored Wright) and the Chicago Seven, who created the modern skyline. The Chicago Architecture Foundation on South Michigan Avenue runs walking or – even better – boat tours down the Chicago River and you'll get a great feel for the city's history.

My favourite building is probably the Tribune Tower, at 435 North Michigan Avenue, the neo-Gothic home of the Chicago Tribune. Colonel McCormick, who owned the paper, was a little like Lord Elgin – he got the foreign correspondents to chip out parts of famous monuments, which were then shipped back and incorporated into the side of the skyscraper, so you can see chunks of the Great Wall of China, Hagia Sofia, Notre Dame, the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon and Angkor Wat. I'm not sure these guys always asked permission, but what the colonel wanted, the colonel got.

Once you've seen that, go across the street to the Billy Goat Tavern, at 430 North Michigan Avenue – a Chicago landmark of a different kind where, when I was growing up, you still had guys come across from the paper with inky hands and green eye-shades on. This was the go-to watering hole for the great newspapermen and the walls are covered in framed front pages. There's a story about how the goat – a real one called Murphy – was denied entry to the Chicago Cubs' home ground, Wrigley Field, with the result that its owner cursed the team and they've been losers ever since, even though they've since apologised.

Want to see jazz? You've come to the right city. I got my start at the Green Mill, at 4802 North Broadway Avenue, which was once a hangout for the likes of Charlie Chaplin – this was back when there was a Chicago film industry to rival Los Angeles'. Al Jolson, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Coltrane have all performed there. It used to be owned by Machine Gun Jack McGurn and frequented by Al Capone – you can still sit in his booth, positioned so he could see both entrances in case of a raid. I played here every Wednesday night for eight years – it has a unique atmosphere and you'll hear fine music.

Downtown, the Jazz Showcase, at 806 South Plymouth Court, has been in operation since 1947 and still attracts the big national acts. On the wall, you can see posters from back in the day when, in a two-week stretch, you could hear Dexter Gordon, Count Basie, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy, the Mingus Band – man, you would have just moved in and never left. If you want something more local – no big names but real tight musicians – Andy's is right downtown on Hubbard Street. It opens at 4pm – early for a jazz club – and the music starts at 5. The food is simple but good.

Then you must drop in at Gene and Georgetti, at 500 North Franklin, a classic Chicago steakhouse that has the best lamb chops in the world. It makes my mouth water just to think of them. They're rubbed with some family-secret spices, then broiled at an incredible temperature. And beyond the chops, it has its own folklore. There are pictures of Sinatra, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball and past mayors and governors – before they got put in jail – on the walls. It’s where 'the guys' go, if you know what I mean. But don't get put upstairs, that's Siberia. Gene and Georgetti's is within walking distance of the Gallery District, the streets around Franklin and Wells – a whole area where you can just hop from gallery to gallery and see some beautiful art and sculpture for sale.

When theatre in the US gets mentioned, people think of Broadway and Off-Broadway. But Chicago has, per capita, more theatre performances on any given night than any place else in America. People put on shows in garage spaces, churches, beneath bars, above the bar, in the bar. It's not all world-class, but it's people going for it, writing original material, putting blood and guts on stage and sometimes in the audience. The theatre scene is one of the many under-heralded things about my hometown. The two venues to check first are, of course, Steppenwolf, at 1650 North Halsted Street, where you'll see edgy, contemporary shows, and the Goodman Theatre, at 170 North Dearborn Street, which is a bit more establishment. Beautiful space, too.

You shouldn't miss the new State Street. Sinatra sang "State Street, that great street", and it's once more worth a stroll. Look in at Macy's, too, which still has incredible Tiffany glass-mosaic ceilings, and the former Chicago Public Library, now the Cultural Center, at 78 East Washington Street, which has the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world. Everything that happens in there is free, so it's a great one-stop arts centre.

Right across the street from the Cultural Center is Millennium Park and the Frank Gehry outdoor concert shell, with its distinctive acoustic trellis. Again, concerts there are completely free. It seats 4,000 but there's room on the lawn for another 7,000. So, in summer, pick up a picnic, maybe from The Berghoff, at 17 West Adams Street, a great institution. It's another glorious experience – but then, as you can tell, I think Chicago is full of them.

— Kurt Elling, for TheWeek.co.uk

First Meeting of Acclaimed Ensemble and Singer Yields a Program of Small Group Jazz with Voice for the 21st Century

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Check out these Upward Spiral previews

Upward Spiral Tour Dates


It is no secret that the Branford Marsalis Quartet can be as freewheeling off the bandstand as in performance. Saxophonist Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner are each bold personalities with strong opinions, equally intense in both musical and verbal exchanges. "The band talks about all kinds of things, many of which are unprintable," Marsalis admits. "But we have serious musical debates as well."

Upward SpiralOne of these conversations led to Upward Spiral, the new album with special guest Kurt Elling that Marsalis Music is releasing via OKeh Records on June 10, 2016.

"One topic we got into was picking the best singer to work with our band," Marsalis recalls. "My candidate was Kurt Elling, because he has the most flexible voice around, is always in tune and is a true jazz musician. When I met Kurt two years ago at a Thelonious Monk Institute competition, we had a conversation at the bar about doing a record together."

"I had bumped into Branford on the road a handful of times, and we always had significant conversations," Elling adds. "So when he mentioned making a record, I said 'any time.'" What has emerged, after an intense week of performance and recording in New Orleans, is a collection that blends Songbook staples, jazz standards, and standards-to-be from a diverse array of composers.

The goal from the outset was to create a true partnership.
"I usually reject the word 'collaboration,'" Marsalis admits, "because it implies a third thing from that which each collaborator does well. I don't need a collaborator to do what I normally do, and Kurt doesn't, either. But this time, none of us were going to do what we normally do. The goal here, even though he sings lyrics, was to highlight Kurt's voice as an instrument."

Elling was more than prepared for the challenge. "I love singing with a hard-hitting band," he confirms, "and I've spent so much time trying to be with excellent tenor players. From when I started in Chicago, working with Von Freeman, Eddie Johnson and Ed Petersen up to more recent gigs with Ernie Watts, Joel Frahm and Houston Person, I've made it a point to be comfortable around a great tenor sound.

"I didn't want Branford's band to feel that it had to hold back because a singer was there. To be welcomed into the Quartet's circle, which is all about new challenges and hard blowing, was very important to me. When I asked Branford what to bring about a week before the date, he said 'Don't worry, you've got the thing.' So I brought 'the thing.'"

Choosing songs, which were tested over a weekend's engagement at New Orleans' Snug Harbor before three days in the studios of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, became a process in which all five musicians had input. "Everyone in the band is always listening to all kinds of music," Marsalis emphasizes, "so it's not as if we had to go out and do research on vocal records.

"For example, I had been listening to the Oscar Brown song 'Long as You're Living' for two years before the date. The first time I heard Sting's 'Practical Arrangement,' I called him and asked for a lead sheet, because I wanted to play that song with the quartet even before the idea of recording with Kurt came up.

I also chose ' Só Tinha de Ser Com Você,' a Jobim song that has not been done to death. I told everyone to study Elis Regina's version, because I wanted us to sound authentic rather than generic. Doing 'Blue Gardenia' was my idea, while Eric originally suggested Chris Whitley's 'From One Island' when we were talking about more recent songs.

"At one point Kurt said that there was too much melancholy, so I came up with 'There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon' because I love Shirley Horn's version. But so much of the beauty is in the melancholic material, and I'm confident that my audience is ready for real life."

Elling also brought ideas and several songs to the partnership. "I had been working on some difficult classical music at the time and was content not to have one of my songs on the record," Marsalis admits, "but Joey showed Kurt 'Cassandra' at Snug Harbor and Kurt wanted to write a lyric and record it."

Calderazzo wrote the music for "The Return (Upward Spiral)" and sent it to Elling, who added a lyric prior to the session. The singer also suggested "Doxy," the Sonny Rollins classic with lyrics that Mark Murphy introduced; "West Virginia Rose," with music and lyrics by pianist Fred Hersch; and "Momma Said," with the quartet responding spontaneously in the studio to the Calvin Forbes poem.

Two classic ballad performances complete the collection. "Kurt had wanted to do 'Blue Velvet,' using Bobby Vinton's hit version as a starting point," Marsalis recalls. "I said that I'd write it out, but Kurt said, 'No, I want us to sound like ghosts, with just enough technique to get the message across.' He also wanted to do a voice/tenor duet, which I was originally against, but we tried 'I'm a Fool to Want You' and he was right. When you have a singer who can inhabit the emotional space, it works."

Every track on Upward Spiral confirms the beyond-category strengths of both the Quartet and Elling. "No one in the band had to make adjustments, because good musicians can play many styles of music," Marsalis notes. "We're fully engaged with one another when we're playing, so it was easy to engage with Kurt. The only adjustment was not to play long solos, but if making the music sound good means playing less, you play less."

Elling adds that "My thing is always about tailoring what I do to the vision and personality of the band, and Branford's quartet is a real working band, which is both an incredible luxury and incredibly important for the music. They provided everything on a silver platter."

For Marsalis, Upward Spiral is consistent with all of his previous music. "My philosophy of jazz is that it should be about strong melodies and a great beat, and every song here has a melody that you can hold in your mind, that you can sing. This is not jazz as a personal think tank, where people are only concerned with impressing everyone already inside of the tank with deconstruction and reharmonization. This is the kind of music that should expand our base to include people who would like jazz if it were friendlier. From the minute Kurt started performing with us, it was all good."

Release date: June 10, 2016

Order on:

Amazon
iTunes
Music on Vinyl

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Track listing:

There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York
George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Edwin DuBose Hayward

Blue Gardenia
Lester Lee and Sidney Keith Russell

From One Island To Another
Chris Whitley

Practical Arrangement
Sting, Robert Mathes

Doxy
Sonny Rollins (music), Mark Murphy (lyrics)

I'm A Fool To Want You
Frank Sinatra, Jack Wolf, Joel S. Herron

West Virginia Rose
Fred Hersch

Só Tinha de Ser Com Você
Antonio Carlos Jobim, Aloysio de Oliveira

Momma Said
Branford Marsalis (music), Calvin Forbes (poetry)

Cassandra Song
Branford Marsalis (music), Kurt Elling (lyrics)

Blue Velvet
Lee Morris and Bernie Wayne

The Return (Upward Spiral)
Joey Calderazzo (music), Kurt Elling (lyrics)

Lang LangLincoln Center presents Lang Lang’s New York Rhapsody, a special one-night only concert featuring the internationally acclaimed pianist Lang Lang on Tuesday, May 3, 2016.

This exclusive multi-genre concert event pairs one of the world’s greatest virtuosos in an intimate evening of duets with Rufus Wainwright, Kurt Elling, Suzanne Vega, Regina Spektor, Andra Day, Lindsey Stirling, Sean Jones, Jerry Douglas, and Lisa Fischer, with a 30-piece orchestra under the musical direction by David Lai.

Lang Lang’s New York Rhapsody is a love letter to the city he considers his adoptive home, set to the music that helped make this city so famous, performed at one of its most iconic venues, Lincoln Center.

The show will embrace a wide range of musical styles and voices capturing New York’s magic, from Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Danny Elfman to Lou Reed, Alicia Keys, and Don Henley, including a rare performance of the original 1924 jazz band arrangement of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Lang Lang's New York Rhapsody, which benefits Lincoln Center's community engagement initiatives, is produced by Live From Lincoln Center and will be filmed for a national television broadcast on PBS later this year and then be available on DVD.

Lang Lang’s record label, Sony Classical, is planning to release a studio album of New York Rhapsody later this year as well.

GRAMMY Park 2016 BrooklynGRAMMY Park, the first GRAMMY-branded, multiday live music experience, premieres May 5-8, 2016 in Brooklyn, NY!

GRAMMY Park showcases and celebrates excellence in music across genres.

Live music performances will take place in two of Brooklyn's most iconic locations, LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Prospect Park and the historic Kings Theatre.

Over the course of four days and nine live concert performances, more than 30 artists, collectively honored with 40-plus GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY Awards, will converge in Brooklyn to celebrate the rich musical diversity of various genres, including R&B, gospel, pop, Latin, and jazz.

Grammy-winning vocalist Kurt Elling & the Charlie Hunter Trio will perform during the Jazz All-Stars set on Saturday, May 7th, from 6:00-6:45 pm, at LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Prospect Park.

The Jazz All-Stars concert is FREE! No ticket required.

GRAMMY Park 2016 Jazz All-Stars

Free concert events - open to the public with no ticket required - also include a special concert featuring emerging artists on Saturday, May 7 and a Mother's Day gospel concert and a big band show on Sunday, May 8 at LeFrak Center at Lakeside.

GRAMMY PARK 2016 PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE

Thursday, May 5, 8:00 pm, Kings Theatre
Artist Spotlight: NE-YO with Jazmine Sullivan
NE-YO (three-time GRAMMY® winner) with
Jazmine Sullivan (11-time GRAMMY nominee)

Friday, May 6, 7:00 pm, Kings Theatre
Latin Mix
Natalia Lafourcade (GRAMMY winner; seven-time Latin GRAMMY winner)
Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra
(O'Farrill, three-time GRAMMY winner; Latin GRAMMY winner)
Alex Cuba (four-time Latin GRAMMY winner)

Saturday, May 7, 11:30 am, LeFrak Center at Lakeside
The Next Generation: Emerging Artists - FREE! No ticket required
Alex & Sierra and Chelsea Chris
Additional performers to be announced

Saturday, May 7, 11:30 am, Kings Theatre
M&M'S Presents GRAMMY Park Social Stages
Social media stars Jake Foushee (host), Kenny Holland, Carson Lueders, Russ, and Sammy Wilk

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Saturday, May 7, 2:00-10:00 pm, LeFrak Center at Lakeside
Jazz All-Stars - FREE! No ticket required
2:00 - Christian McBride Trio
3:00 - Cecile McLorin Salvant & The Aaron Diehl Trio
4:00 - Monty Alexander & Harlem Kingston Express
5:00 - John Patitucci Electric Guitar Quartet
6:00 - Kurt Elling-Charlie Hunter Trio
7:00 - Terence Blanchard & E-Collective
8:00 - The Commodores

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Saturday, May 7, 8:00 pm, Kings Theatre
M&M'S Presents Robin Thicke & Aloe Blacc
Robin Thicke (five-time GRAMMY nominee) and
Aloe Blacc (GRAMMY nominee)

Sunday, May 8, Noon, LeFrak Center at Lakeside
Gospel Concert - FREE! no ticket required
Hezekiah Walker (two-time GRAMMY winner)
BeBe Winans (six-time GRAMMY winner)
Ray Chew, music director

Sunday, May 8, 5:00 pm, LeFrak Center at Lakeside
Big Band Remix - FREE! No ticket required
Christian McBride Big Band
Special Guests:
Jonathan Butler (two-time GRAMMY nominee)
Dianne Reeves (five-time GRAMMY winner)

Sunday, May 8, 7:00 pm, Kings Theatre
Artist Spotlight: Toni Braxton with Andra Day
Toni Braxton (seven-time GRAMMY winner)
Andra Day (two-time GRAMMY nominee)

#GRAMMYPark

Visit the GRAMMY Park 2016 website for more information and tickets.

The Recording Academy, Upsilon Ventures, and the New York City Mayor's Office are presenting this inaugural GRAMMY Park music festival.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock are pleased to announce the fifth annual International Jazz Day, which will be celebrated around the world on April 30, 2016.

Washington, D.C. has been selected to serve as the 2016 Global Host City, and International Jazz Day programs are made possible by Toyota, the 2016 Lead Partner.

Jazz Day 2016 at the White House

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host the 5th anniversary International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert at the White House on April 29th and this spectacular event will be broadcast on International Jazz Day as a one-hour primetime ABC television special, "Jazz at the White House," on Saturday evening, April 30th at 8:00 pm EDT/7 pm CDT and webcast at 9:00 pm EDT on JazzDay.com.

The concert will feature an extraordinary array of artists from around the world paying tribute to the truly American art form of jazz.

The All-Star Global Concert at the White House will feature stellar performances by:

Pianists Joey Alexander, John Beasley (Music Director), Kris Bowers, Chick Corea, Robert Glasper, Herbie Hancock, Danilo Pérez and Chucho Valdés; trumpeters Terence Blanchard, Till Brönner, Hugh Masekela and James Morrison; vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jamie Cullum, Kurt Elling, Aretha Franklin, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves and Sting; saxophonists Eli Degibri, David Sánchez, Wayne Shorter and Bobby Watson; bassists Christian McBride, Marcus Miller, Esperanza Spalding and Ben Williams; guitarists Buddy Guy, Lionel Loueke, Pat Metheny and Lee Ritenour; drummers Brian Blade, Terri Lyne Carrington and Kendrick Scott; percussionist Zakir Hussain; trombonist Trombone Shorty; and the Rebirth Brass Band.

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock said,

"We are thrilled that President Obama and Michelle Obama are hosting the International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert at the White House, and are truly grateful for their commitment to jazz and its role in building bridges and uniting people around the world. Over the past five years, the innovation and creativity of Jazz Day has been a beacon of light to millions of people who find common ground and communicate through the values inherent in jazz. On April 30th, people of all ages in all corners of the globe will participate in International Jazz Day. A wide range of momentous events will take place in thousands of neighborhoods – and the streets will be alive with the sounds of peace and freedom."

Many acclaimed musicians and educators will participate in a daylong series of free jazz performances, master classes, improvisational workshops, roundtable discussions, education programs, jam sessions, and community outreach initiatives at schools, embassies, arts centers, hospitals, museums, social service agencies, jazz clubs, senior centers, metro stations, recreation centers and parks across Washington, D.C. on April 30th.

These programs in Washington, D.C. will be among the thousands of International Jazz Day live performances, educational activities, and community service programs taking place in all 50 U.S. states and in more than 190 countries on all seven continents.

"Jazz was born in the US and traveled the world as a music of tolerance, freedom and human dignity. This is why UNESCO created International Jazz Day and we are extremely pleased that in 2016 Washington, DC has been designated the host city for this global celebration, with a unique All Star Concert at the White House, hosted by the President of the United States Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. This event reminds us Jazz is more than music – it is a universal message of peace with rhythm and meaning," declared the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz is once again working with UNESCO and its field offices, national commissions, networks, Associated Schools, universities and institutes, public radio and public television stations, and NGOs to ensure their involvement and participation in International Jazz Day 2016. Additionally, in countries throughout the world, libraries, schools, universities, performing arts venues, community centers, artists, and arts organizations of all disciplines will be celebrating the day through presentations, concerts, and other jazz-focused programs.

International Jazz Day 2016poster

According to Tom Carter, President of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, "International Jazz Day places a strong emphasis on education programs and community service. Many of these worldwide programs are now provided year-round in big cities, small towns, and even remote villages. It is a testament to all those involved with International Jazz Day that we are reaching people on every continent, including some of the most vulnerable and challenged individuals and communities."

As part of the International Jazz Day worldwide celebration, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz will launch Math, Science & Music, a groundbreaking education platform with free, engaging curricula, games, apps and other online elements that use music as a tool to teach math and science to K-12 and college students. The program will address the growing need for students to gain skills and knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and learn to think creatively. The Institute is collaborating with international math, science and music experts at seven leading universities to develop the program, which initially will be offered in English, and in later years will be available in other United Nations languages. Math, Science & Music will debut on Tuesday, April 26 at a presentation at the U.S. Department of Education hosted by Secretary of Education John King.

Presented each year on April 30th in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, International Jazz Day highlights the power of jazz as a force for freedom and creativity, promotes intercultural dialogue through respect and understanding, and unites people from all corners of the globe. The day is recognized on the official calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations.

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"Jazz at the White House," All-Star Global Concert: Saturday, April 30, 2016, 8:00 pm EDT / 7:00 pm CDT, ABC Television Network

The All-Star Concert will also be streamed JazzDay.com and the United Nations, UNESCO, US State Department and White House websites.

For more on International Jazz Day events in all 50 U.S. states and in more than 190 countries on all seven continents, please click here.

JazzDay.com
#JazzDay

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Previously President and Mrs. Obama invited Kurt Elling to perform for the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, the honored guests at the first official White House state dinner, held November 24, 2009 in a large tent on the South Lawn. Over 300 people were in attendance. Kurt performed "Nature Boy," accompanied by Laurence Hobgood on piano and the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marvin Hamlisch.

Click here for a special five-page PDF about the 2009 White House state dinner, including Kurt's White House Story, photos of the dinner, and links to the official program, guest list, and more.

After the release of Passion World, his latest recording for Concord, Kurt Elling held a photo contest inspired by the View From My Hotel Window gallery on his website. For years while on tour Kurt has taken photos from hotel and airplane windows as well as of eye-catching scenes in the places he visits worldwide, posting them for fans on Instagram and his website.

For this View From My Window contest, Kurt asked fans to submit photos of the views outside the windows of places special to them. The grand prize was a single, custom-made, autographed copy of Passion World with the winner's photo on the cover.

The competition took a remarkable turn when Kurt selected Tim Smith as the grand prize winner. Smith is a long-time Kurt Elling fan who runs a design firm in Cincinnati, OH. After expressing his delight at winning, Tim shared some personal stories with Kurt and his team that revealed the deeper significance of his photo.

Tim is slowly losing his vision to Retintis Pigmentosa and he serves as President of his local chapter of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. As a talented designer Tim's eyesight is vital to his craft. He explained that Kurt's music has been an important escape for him ever since he first heard the singer on National Public Radio in the late '90s.

Tim Smith's Passion World cover
Tim's prize-winning photo was shot from the back deck of his home overlooking the Ohio River he loves. He and his wife Paula Toti built the deck so he could enjoy the expansive river view as long as possible. Tim said that having Kurt select his photo of the place that's so special to him was particularly meaningful because Kurt's music has provided comfort to him during difficult times.

Said Kurt, "Tim's is a beautiful image – so many of the entries were, and it was a difficult choice. But Tim's has a dreamy quality that was very evocative – of adventures and literature and travel and something more than mere romance. Tim's photo is a painting."

Paula Toti, Tim Smith, Kurt EllingTim said, "I would like Mr. Elling to know how much it means to me that he enjoyed the image. It seems the least I could do considering how much pleasure his music has given me over the years. Designing an album cover for Mr. Elling is something I've dreamed of. This may be as close as I ever come and I consider it an honor."

This heart-warming story concluded recently in Louisville, KY where Kurt presented Tim with the custom-made, autographed copy of Passion World featuring Tim's fabulous photo as the cover art.

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A gallery of all the entries in the View From My Window contest, including Tim Smith's grand-prize winning photo and those of the five runners-up, is here.

At 17 years old, a serendipitous encounter with Frank Sinatra and his long-time pal Jilly Rizzo changed the trajectory of Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander's career forever: Alexander would soon become the house pianist for the famed Jilly's club in New York City and develop a unique relationship with its most famous patron.
Monty Alexander
Sinatra's centennial elicits fond memories of Alexander's time spent at the intimate hangout, and with the help of GRAMMY® Award-winning and DownBeat Critics Poll-dominating singer Kurt Elling, he will share stories and anecdotes from a treasured and rare perspective. A masterful pianist, Alexander's career spans five decades and includes collaborations with some of the most important figures in jazz, like Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as an illustrious recording career as a leader.

International touring artist Elling, referred to by The Guardian as "a kind of Sinatra with superpowers," will provide his vocal interpretation of the classic tunes, to which he is no stranger.

On these evenings' celebration of Frank Sinatra’s centennial, Kurt Elling and Monty Alexander will focus on the milieu at Jilly’s Saloon, at 256 W. 52nd Street, a magnet for tough guys and entertainers that often served as Sinatra’s late night office when he found himself in New York City during the 1960s. Perhaps more successfully than any 21st century jazz singer, Elling, 48, embodies the aesthetic principles by which Sinatra operated. Alexander, now 71 and one of the mightiest swingers in jazz, was frequently employed as house pianist at Jilly’s between 1963 and 1968, a tenure he acknowledged on the superb 1997 trio recording Echoes of Jilly’s.

When introducing the "saloon song section" of his concerts, Sinatra liked to describe the genre as "songs of unrequited love and sadness," but the mood at Jilly's was anything but morose when he held court at his table at the back of the room. "The joint would be buzzing, and I'd be burning, doing what I have to do," Alexander recalled. In addition to such high Q Score entertainers as Johnny Carson, Alan King, Jack Carter, and Jack E. Leonard, the patrons included, by Alexander’s recollection, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, and Miles Davis.

Joining Alexander and Elling in these concerts will be bassist Hassan Shakur, guitarist Frank Vignola, hand drummer Robert Thomas Jr., and drummer Dennis Mackrel.

This early, nurturing period in which the young pianist and an iconic hero spontaneously mused on saloon songs up into the wee hours of the night is a Valentine’s weekend treat sure to satisfy both nostalgic and contemporary tastes. Sinatra songs to be featured include "Young at Heart," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," "Luck, Be a Lady Tonight," "The Summer Wind," "Fly Me to the Moon," and other favorites.

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February 12-13, 2016, Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, 60th & Broadway, New York, NY
Live Streamed on the Web at livestream.com/jazz
Pre-concert talk at 7:00 pm each night