On Kurt's 50th birthday, he posted an open letter to his fans on his Facebook page. Fans responded with wonderful stories, photographs, and well-wishes.
It is with deep gratitude that I accept and embrace your many warm wishes on my 50th birthday. Here it is almost 30 years since I began this professional adventure. Some of you have been around from the earliest days back in Chicago, St Peter and even Rockford. I am humbled that you have chosen to listen to at least some of my notes and pay attention to some of my lyrics. I am encouraged by your kindness. I hope that in 50 years I have learned to sing better. I hope the choices I am making reflect a deepening wisdom and expertise in music and in life.
I want to give a special word of gratitude to the many musicians who have collaborated, assisted, taught and counseled me over the years - Von Freeman, Eddie Johnson, Paul Serrano, John Young, Mark Murphy, Rob Amster - Jon Hendricks, Laurence Hobgood, Ernie Watts, Bob Mintzer, Fred Hersch, Justin Faulkner, Eric Revis, Joey Calderazzo, Guy Barker and, most recently and significantly, Branford Marsalis. Chapeau as well to my fantastic friends in the working band - John Mclean, Stu Mindeman, Clark Sommers, Kendrick Scott, Ulysses Owens Jr. and Christian Euman.
I am especially thankful for my small family - my bride of 21 years, Jennifer, who continues to amaze, inspire and befriend me - my daughter, Luiza, who is a continual source of joy and pride - and our beautiful, wildly happy foster son, "Mr. Fabulous."
A special aside of gratitude to Peter+Trudy Johnson-Lenz, who regularly oversee, edit and energize this FB page. Thank You.
I am a deeply fortunate person. I have the life I always desired. I thank you for helping to make it possible.
To read the outpouring of fan comments and good wishes in response to his letter, click here.
A second post wished Kurt the jazziest of birthdays, inviting his now 50,000+ Facebook fans to share how they discovered him, a story, photos, a favorite song, or whatever they were moved to. Again fans showered him with many well-wishes.
On June 16, Impulse!/Verve will release The Passion of Charlie Parker, an album of iconic Parker songs transformed through the addition of lyrics to create a musical play that narrates Bird's life.
Produced by Larry Klein with lyrics by David Baerwald, the album features actor Jeffrey Wright in the role of Parker as narrator, with vocals provided by Wright, Kurt Elling, Gregory Porter, Madeleine Peyroux, Melody Gardot, Barbara Hannigan, Luciana Souza, and Camille Bertault.
Featured musicians on the album include pianist Craig Taborn, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, guitarist Ben Monder, bassists Larry Grenadier and Scott Colley and drummers Mark Giuliana and Eric Harland.
Larry Klein writes,
With this album I've endeavored to do something new and different in an effort to illustrate who 'Bird' was as an archetypal character, and to draw attention to the huge impact that his work had on Jazz.
...It is really a musical play in the form of an album, or a musical waiting for a libretto. There are several characters in the play, who are the voices through whom the songs are delivered. Three songs are delivered by the great actor Jeffrey Wright, who is the voice of Bird, one is delivered by Kurt Elling who plays a Los Angeles underbelly guide, there are four manifestations of Chan Parker, played by the incredible contemporary classical conductor and soprano Barbara Hannigan, one by Melody Gardot, one by Madeleine Peyroux, and one by Kandace Springs. Gregory Porter is the voice of the young Bird, and Luciana Souza plays a NYC acolyte.
...The musical approach was to pull the Be-Bop spine out from the piece, approaching the music in a modern and conversational manner that is more like what, in my opinion, Bird would be working with if he were alive now and playing these songs.
1. "Meet Charlie Parker" ("Ornithology") — Chan's Overture
Featured vocalist Madeleine Peyroux
2. "The Epitaph of Charlie Parker" ("Visa") — The Funeral
Featured vocalist Barbara Hannigan
3. "Yardbird Suite" (vocal version) — A Genius in His Youth
Featured vocalist Gregory Porter
4. "So Long" ("K.C. Blues") — Exodus To New York City
Featured vocalist Jeffrey Wright
5. "Every Little Thing" ("Bloomdido") — The Song of The Acolyte
Featured vocalist Luciana Souza
6. "Central Avenue" (Interlude) — A Dark Journey to Los Angeles
7. "Los Angeles" ("Moose the Mooche") — The Dealer's Song
Featured vocalist Kurt Elling
8. "Live My Love for You" ("My Little Suede Shoes") — Chan's Love Song
Featured vocalist Kandace Springs
9. "Fifty Dollars" ("Segment") — Angels and Demons
Featured vocalist Jeffrey Wright
10. "The King of 52nd Street" ("Scrapple From the Apple") — Chan's Declaration
Featured vocalist Melody Gardot
11. "Salle Pleyel" (Interlude) — The Journey to Paris
12. "Apres Vous" ("Au Privave") — The Apotheosis of Charlie Parker
Featured vocalist Camille Bertault
Goldenhair, a new recording by Golden Globe-nominated and IFTA award-winning composer Brian Byrne, will be released on Bloomsday, June 16, 2017 on Node Records.
Ranging in style from adult contemporary to jazz, bluegrass, opera, spoken word and more, Goldenhair features world-renowned artists, including Grammy award-winning jazz vocalist Kurt Elling, Golden Globe-winning actress Glenn Close, Prince's singer/songwriter protégé Judith Hill, British musician/songwriter Julian Lennon, Irish singer and composer Gavin Friday and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.
Byrne's original songs were inspired by selected poems from renowned Irish writer James Joyce's 1907 collection, Chamber Music.
The release date for Goldenhair coincides with Bloomsday, the holiday celebrated worldwide to commemorate the life and works of Joyce.
These poems have a natural musicality to them, a lyricism that could only come from a writer (James Joyce) who was hearing melody. — Brian ByrneKurt Elling performs on four tracks: "Strings in the Earth and Air" (with Gavin Friday's reading), "Play On" (with Glenn Close's reading), "Goldenhair," and "Go Seek Her Out."
Elling says of Byrne:
He's managed to show the flexibility of the music that was hiding inside of the poetry. The diverse number of styles that he's able to bring to bear, to amplify what the words have to say, to put them in a more contemporary context while at the same time respecting exactly what Joyce meant to write - that's quite a profound gift.
Elling recorded Byrne's musical setting of "Where Love Is" on his 2015 album, Passion World. On Goldenhair, Judith Hill performs it.
Node Records artist Brian Byrne (also a conductor, arranger, pianist, and producer), composes in all media and across all genres, as Goldenhair showcases.
Byrne co-wrote "The Mystery of Your Gift" with Josh Groban for Dustin Hoffman's film Boychoir. He also wrote the end-title song "The Cry Inside" for Jim Sheridan's film The Secret Scripture, which was recorded for the soundtrack by Kelly Clarkson.
Glenn Close is another collaborator of Byrne's. She first worked with him as the lyricist for his song "Lay Your Head Down" for the film Albert Nobbs, and most recently on Goldenhair.
I was thrilled to be asked to read something for Goldenhair. Brian is a consummate musician who is fluent in multiple genres. He has masterminded a hauntingly gorgeous album. I'm proud to be part of it. — Glenn Close
Watch Byrne's YouTube playlist of nine short videos (each under 01:30) introducing Goldenhair.
For many, these words (from James Joyce) resonate at different levels and depths…. But I feel like they speak to 'The Self' within us all… The fire that sometimes overwhelms us all, and the need to breathe and be in the now. — Julian Lennon
1. Strings in The Earth and Air (Vocals by Kurt Elling, Reading by Gavin Friday)
2. The Winds of May (Vocals by Curtis Stigers and Sara Gazarek)
3. Play On (Vocals by Kurt Elling, Piano by Brian Byrne, Reading by Glenn Close)
4. When The Shy Star (Vocals by Kristina Train)
5. The Year Is Gathering (Vocals by Jack Lukeman, Piano by Brian Byrne)
6. Cool is The Valley (Featuring Balsam Range and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra)
7. Goldenhair (Vocals by Kurt Elling, Piano by Brian Byrne)
8. My Dove (Vocals by Cara Dillon, featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra) - Bonus Track*
9. Go Seek Her Out (Vocals by Kurt Elling, Piano by Brian Byrne, Trumpet by Ryan Quigley)
10. Where Love Is (Vocals by Judith Hill, Piano by Brian Byrne)
11. The Kiss She Gave To Me (Vocals by Andrew Strong and Lisa Lambe)
12. Though Love Live But a Day (Vocals by Kate McGarry and Piano by Brian Byrne)
13. Lightly Come Or Lightly Go (Vocals by Cara O'Sullivan, featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra) - Bonus Track*
14. In The Dark Pinewood (Vocals by Keith Harkin)
15. Silently (Vocals by Declan O'Rourke, Piano by Brian Byrne, Reading by Glenn Close)
16. Sleep Now (Vocals by Kristina Train and Julian Lennon)
17. The Flowery Bells (Vocals by Declan O'Rourke and Friends, Piano by Brian Byrne)
18. Love is Aweary (Vocals by Keith Harkin and Lisa Lambe) - Bonus Track*
19. A Little Ashes (Vocals by Declan O'Rourke, Piano by Brian Byrne, Reading by Gavin Friday)
20. Why Have You Left Me Alone (Vocals by Andrew Strong and Guitar by Phil Robson)
21. Bid Adieu (Vocals by Cara O'Sullivan, featuring the RTÉ Concert Orchestra) - Bonus Track*
* Bonus Tracks are digital only and not included on the CD.
The Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling have been awarded the ECHO Jazz Prize 2017 as International Ensemble of the Year for their 2016 album, Upward Spiral (OKeh Records)!
The ECHO Jazz Prize is the German equivalent of the Grammy.
Branford Marsalis was also nominated for International Instrumentalist of the Year - Saxophones/Woodwinds for Upward Spiral.
The 2017 ECHO Jazz Prizes were awarded in 21 categories for albums released between October 31, 2015 and November 1, 2016 which also received at least two outstanding reviews from music journalists. Winners were selected by twelve jurors from the music industry whose judgment was based especially on artistic criteria, but which also took into account commercial success and appreciation by jazz fans.
The ECHO is an established and well-known music award presented by the German Phono Academy, the cultural arm of the Music Industry Association, honoring outstanding achievements and successful national and international artists. The ECHO Klassik Prize was first awarded in 1994, and the Jazz Prize was added in 2010.
Kurt also received the ECHO Jazz Prize for Male Vocalist of the Year in 2012 for his 2011 recording, The Gate.
This year's awards ceremony will take place on June 1, 2017 at the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany.
Many congratulations to Kurt, the members of the Branford Marsalis Quartet - Branford Marsalis, saxophones; Joey Calderazzo, piano; Eric Revis, bass; and Justin Faulkner, drums - and to all of this year's winners!
Following thousands of events taking place in over 190 countries, International Jazz Day 2017 culminated in a phenomenal concert streamed worldwide from Havana's historic Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso. As the International Jazz Day 2017 Global Host City, the musically vibrant city of Havana also presented a wide range of concerts and education programs in partnership with Cuba's Ministry of Culture, the Cuban Institute of Music, and the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO.
The Global Concert began with an all-star group of musicians from Cuba and around the world performing "Cuba Bop" and "Manteca" in tribute to the groundbreaking 1940s collaboration between Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo that blended Afro-Cuban music and jazz.
Kurt Elling performed a spirited "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York" with Christian Sands, Carl Allen, Melissa Aldana, and percussionist Adel González.
Acclaimed vocalist Cassandra Wilson performed her sultry composition "You Move Me" and Cuban trumpet virtuoso Julio Padrón played Freddie Hubbard's inventive "Byrdlike." Beloved Cuban vocalist Bobby Carcassés joined forces with master bassist and vocalist Richard Bona of Cameroon for a fiery rendition of the Latin jazz tune "Bilongo."
"Bésame Mucho" showcased the global influence of jazz, with pianists Youn Sun Nah (Republic of Korea) and Tarek Yamani (Lebanon); bassist Esperanza Spalding and violinist Regina Carter (United States); and drummer Antonio Sánchez (Mexico).
To mark the centennial of jazz icon Thelonious Monk, legendary Cuban pianists Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Chucho Valdés gave a stunning performance of the classic "Blue Monk."
The concert came to a exhilarating end with artists including pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Marcus Miller, vocalists Kurt Elling and Ivan Lins, French guitarist Marc Antoine, and Cuban percussionists Yaroldi Abreu, Adel González, Ramsés Rodriguez and Oscar Valdés performing the John Lennon anthem "Imagine."
Established by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in coordination with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, International Jazz Day is recognized on the official calendars of UNESCO and the United Nations. Each year on April 30, International Jazz Day highlights the role of jazz in promoting freedom, creativity and intercultural dialogue, and uniting people from all corners of the globe. Toyota served as Lead Partner of International Jazz Day 2017.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock are pleased to announce the sixth annual International Jazz Day, which will be celebrated worldwide on April 30, 2017.
The day will culminate with an All-Star Global Concert presented at the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of Cuba, the Cuban Institute of Music and the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO.
The musically vibrant and culturally rich city of Havana, Cuba, has been selected to serve as the 2017 Global Host City.
The concert will be live streamed by UNESCO and features an extraordinary array of artists from around the world paying tribute to the international art form of jazz.
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 All-Star Global Concert's Artistic Directors are Herbie Hancock & Chucho Valdés, with Musical Co-Directors John Beasley & Emilio Vega.
The All Star Global Concert Concert will feature stellar performances by a truly international roster of artists:
Cuba: Pancho Amat, Bobby Carcassés, Sixto Llorente, César López, Julio Padrón, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chucho Valdés; Brazil: Ivan Lins; China: A Bu; Cameroon: Richard Bona; France: Marc Antoine; Germany: Till Brönner; Italy: Gianluca Petrella; Japan: Takuya Kuroda; Lebanon: Tarek Yamani; Mexico: Antonio Sánchez; Russia: Igor Butman; South Korea: Youn Sun Nah; Tunisia: Dhafer Youssef; United States: Ambrose Akinmusire, Carl Allen, Regina Carter, Kurt Elling, Kenny Garrett, Herbie Hancock, Antonio Hart, Marcus Miller, Christian Sands, Esperanza Spalding, Ben Williams; and others to be announced.
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock said,
“Afro-Cuban jazz and its rich history have played a pivotal role in the evolution and enrichment of the entire jazz genre. The incomparable trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie along with beloved Cuban musicians Mario Bauzá, Machito and Chano Pozo, infused American jazz with Afro-Cuban rhythms to create a brand new, energetic sound that defined modern music. We are so pleased that Havana, Cuba, will serve as the Global Host City for International Jazz Day 2017. On behalf of the worldwide family of jazz musicians, educators and enthusiasts, I would like to thank the citizens of Havana and Cuba for their enormous support of this truly global musical art form.”
Many acclaimed musicians and educators from Cuba and around the world will participate in free jazz performances, master classes, improvisational workshops, jam sessions and community outreach initiatives. Programs will take place at schools, arts venues, community centers, jazz clubs and parks across the city of Havana and throughout Cuba beginning on Monday, April 24th and leading up to the festivities on April 30th.
Additionally, jazz history and education programs will be provided for tens of thousands of students in over 11,000 schools across Cuba. These programs will be among the thousands of International Jazz Day live performances, educational activities, and community service programs taking place in more than 190 countries on all continents.
“UNESCO is proud to be associated once again with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, as well as with the Instituto Cubano de la Música, to raise the flag for jazz, for freedom, for creativity, for diversity and for unity. This year’s focus on Cuba is testament to the power of jazz to build bridges and join women and men together around shared values and aspirations,” 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 2017.
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.
The celebration in Havana of the International Jazz Day in 2017 marks the seventieth anniversary of Cuba’s accession to UNESCO and the foundation of the National Commission for UNESCO.
The day is recognized on the official calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations. International Jazz Day programs are made possible by Toyota, the 2017 lead partner.
For International Jazz Day events in all 50 U.S. states and in more than 190 countries on all seven continents, please click or tap here.