Kurt's Press Archive - 2009
Singer Kurt Elling brought a much-needed musical and theatrical presence to the L.A. Philharmonic's tip of the beret to the 1950s poets who created an artistic base in San Francisco. For too much of the night, the two jazz bands dominated with bluesy and free excursions that trampled over  ...read more…
It was difficult to know what to expect going into the Night of the Beats concert at Disney Hall on Tuesday night. In this final performance in the West Coast, Left Coast festival, the only sure thing was a celebration of the intersection of bebop and beat poetry, two wildly  ...read more…
There was a time when Kurt Elling seemed destined for a different path altogether. In his youth, his thoughts were of academia; at graduate school in Chicago, he was wrestling with the complexities of the philosophy of religion until he began to drift towards the idea of making jazz the  ...read more…
November 6th, 2009
Let's come right out and say it: Kurt Elling is the most influential jazz vocalist of our time. Mercurial but ever-lyrical, a serenader as well as a searcher, he represents the higher instincts and aspirations of a field crowded with every sort of throwback. At 42, he's a perennial poll winner  ...read more…
As if on cue, a Dixieland band struck up When the Saints Go Marching In as passengers disembarked at the airport. In a city that is reeling from the recession — as every taxi driver reminds you — the festival banished memories of the painful demise of the Celtic Tiger. Some of  ...read more…
Kurt Elling was one credit shy of graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in divinity when he heard another calling. The estimated 400 attending Saturday night's Jazz Arts Group concert were happy the singer took that call. Elling crooned and scatted with JAG's Big Band and held the  ...read more…
Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota is about an hour's drive from Minneapolis, a bit longer if you stick to speed limits. It's also Kurt Elling's alma mater (class of 1989), and last night (Oct. 10) he returned for homecoming and a concert at Bjorling Recital Hall, where he first performed  ...read more…
Even though jazz singer Kurt Elling is an intellectual, once on the stage or in the recording studio, his music breathes with emotion that stirs the soul. Once bound for the academic life, Elling interprets standards and creates originals, combining his restless intellect with an equally restless desire to communicate  ...read more…
October 5th, 2009
In a single three-hour session in March 1963, John Coltrane and the singer Johnny Hartman convened in a studio (along with the other members of Coltrane's legendary quintet) and recorded an album's worth of ballads that became one of the most beloved jazz vocal albums of all-time, the simply titled John  ...read more…
October 3rd, 2009
As sumptuous as Johnny Hartman's espresso-dark baritone was, his brand of balladeering remained forever steeped in conservatism. Indeed, when Hartman formed an unlikely but glorious union with John Coltrane in 1963, it was Coltrane who curbed his adventurousness, downshifting into Hartman's traditionalist zone and proving himself an invaluable partner in plush  ...read more…
Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling's eclectic reach includes everything from scat and vocalese to great American standards to sung instrumental music. His eighth and latest album, however, is a less-taxing-than-usual tribute to a classic 1963 jazz duet album by saxophonist John Coltrane and singer Johnny Hartman. Friends at the Chicago Jazz Festival  ...read more…
Three Generations of Pianists, a celebration of piano jazz, spotlighting a family of greats from Jason Moran through Dave Brubeck, highlighted the 2009 Monterey Jazz Festival at Monterey County Fairgrounds in Northern California. And surprisingly, celebrated folk legend Pete Seeger got the loudest cheers for his eyebrow-raising appearance. As always, Monterey  ...read more…
September 23rd, 2009
The second set was a breathtaking performance by the 2nd edition of the Monterey All Stars. Anchored by pianist Kenny Barron's trio with Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums, the band featured violinist Regina Carter, Russell Malone on guitar and vocalist Kurt Elling. The fact that most  ...read more…
The Arena's second event of the night, one we'll see in full, is this year's version of the Monterey Jazz Festival All-Stars supergroup: Kenny Barron on piano, Regina Carter on violin, vocalist Kurt Elling, and Russell Malone on guitar, with Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums. As  ...read more…
September 18th, 2009
Monterey Jazz Festival, 2009 Many view anything with the term "All-Stars” in it with a healthy dose of skepticism, and no wonder. If you've regularly watched baseball's All Stars game, it often seems like most of the players are phoning it in. So it's no surprise if the audience was holding  ...read more…
September 15th, 2009
It is one of a handful of jazz albums you are likely to find in non-jazz listeners' collection. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, the eponymous collaboration between the legendary tenor saxophonist and the jazz vocalist's jazz vocalist, is simply a masterpiece of romantic balladry. Earlier this year, Kurt Elling paid  ...read more…
Among his many musical interests, Kurt Elling has long been an avid interpreter of standards. However in recent years he has focused his attention on more contemporary repertoire and occasional forays into original material, culminating in his stunning masterpiece, "The Man in the Air” and the less successful follow up,  ...read more…
August 8th, 2009
Kurt Elling: Dedicated to You The fine art of jazz singing is regularly dumbed down by the talent-show talentless, so it's a delight to check in with Elling's rich baritone on this live set. True, his tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane can be a little overwrought but, backed  ...read more…
Having been in the enviable position of hearing Kurt Elling live at Chicago's intimate, former speakeasy the Green Mill on SRO evenings, I wondered if his mellifluous tonality and spot-on phrasing could come equally alive on a recording. On Elling's eighth album, and second release on Concord Jazz, entitled Dedicated  ...read more…
I usually dislike the term vocal­ist when what people really mean is singer, but in the case of Kurt Elling, who's riding a critical wave with his latest recording, Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman, it fits the man as per­fectly as  ...read more…
The Johnny Hartman-John Coltrane partnership left a small discography but a large shadow. On Dedicated To You, Kurt Elling and Ernie Watts further memorialize and enshrine that brief encounter—only six songs—in the best way possible: by being true to its essence while also taking it to a somewhat  ...read more…
Kurt Elling's eighth album, his second release for Concord Jazz, provides a beautiful commentary on the classic 1963 album John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman. Recorded live as part of Lincoln Center's American Songbook series, Elling moves through the six-song album – seamlessly interwoven with an additional five tracks from Coltrane's Ballads album –  ...read more…
The singer from Chicago has always been immensely talented but listening to his early recordings now, and fine as they are, they are not a patch on the latest ones. In the last few years either his voice has caught up with his imagination, or perhaps he has reached some  ...read more…
When Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane recorded their one and only album together they created a moment that shaped the art of vocal jazz. An instant of beauty transformed into history. Despite a bias towards the original recording, after listening to Kurt Elling's lustrous and drawn butter version, it was  ...read more…
"Mr. Elling has proved his finesse as a Hartman-like melodist...accessing both Coltrane and Hartman, he sounded like no one but himself.” – New York Times In 1963, legends John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman issued their landmark recording of classic ballads. In 2009, vocalist Kurt Elling celebrates this collaboration with fellow Grammy winner,  ...read more…
Pianist Bill Charlap, always an engaging host, interrupted his concert Tuesday night with a story. As a teenager, he told the audience at New York's 92nd Street Y, he'd met Jule Styne and asked the great Broadway composer, "What makes a great song?” Styne's answer: "A simple melody and attractive  ...read more…
When he was a teenager, the jazz pianist Bill Charlap recalled at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday evening, he met the composer Jule Styne and asked him for the secret to writing a good popular song. Mr. Styne, choosing his words carefully, replied that it had to be "melodically  ...read more…
Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman 4 stars Jazz singing doesn't come much better than this. Elling's taste for angular Beat-era lyrics has sometimes stretched his audience's patience, but on this live set he reins in the self-indulgences on an unfailingly romantic celebration of the  ...read more…
On this live recording from New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center, Chicagoan Kurt Elling remembers fellow baritone Johnny Hartman. He's taken inspiration from Hartman and John Coltrane's partnership in the 60s and got together with sax player Ernie Watts, but it's not in Elling's nature to copy, so they most  ...read more…
This is a Lincoln Centre live recording of singer Kurt Elling's 2008 London jazz festival show. It pays tribute to John Coltrane's ballad meeting with singer Johnny Hartman, Impulse records' 1963 attempt to soften the messianic sax improviser for a nervous public. Elling takes these dialogues with saxophonist Ernie Watts and brilliant  ...read more…
Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman is a live collection recorded as a part of Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series, a creative homage to the now classic 1963 John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman recording. For this occasion a jazz trio led by Laurence Hobgood, vocalist  ...read more…
Kurt Elling sets the standard for the current generation of male jazz singers, with a stage presence, smarts and stylishness that are up-to-date but also deeply in the tradition. Now the vocalist takes on a John Coltrane classic, recreating an iconic album for his latest CD, Dedicated to You: Kurt  ...read more…
Kurt Elling has never shied away from a challenge -- the nimble singer has carved a unique place for himself in the jazz pantheon, with a signature sound that cunningly combines blues, ballads, and beat-inspired poetry. On his eighth outing as a leader (and his second for Concord), Elling ups  ...read more…
There are some consistencies in life. The Middle East will always be a hot spot, the New York Yankees will overspend to be also-rans, and Kurt Elling will never disappoint an audience. The Chicago-based jazz singer gave another star turn Friday night at the Centre for the Performing Arts, delivering  ...read more…
Dedicated to You, the new CD from jazz singer Kurt Elling, pays tribute to the 1963 duo recording that paired vocalist Johnny Hartman and saxophonist John Coltrane. What began as a commission from the Chicago Jazz Festival has turned into a year's work, as Elling not only made a recording of  ...read more…
When Clint Eastwood wanted to evoke a mood of simmering romance tinged with rue, he called upon the velvet-smooth baritone of Johnny Hartman, generously ladling the crooner's voice throughout his film "The Bridges of Madison County." For long-suffering fans of Hartman, the brief upsurge in interest sparked by the "Bridges"  ...read more…
Kurt Elling: Say It (Over & Over Again) Rating: 95/100 Originally produced as a concert for the Monterey Jazz Festival, Kurt Elling's CD "Dedicated To You" celebrates John Coltrane's Ballads and the classic John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman. In his poem "A Poetic Jazz Memory" which he recites over "It's Easy To  ...read more…
Chicago jazz singer Kurt Elling has been nominated for Grammy Awards so frequently that it seems inevitable he'll pick up the prize sooner or later. In truth, he deserved to win years ago, for visionary work such as his brilliant debut CD, "Close Your Eyes" (1995), and its innovative follow-ups, particularly  ...read more…
In an era where the landscape of what passes for jazz singers is often very predictable, it's tempting to say "thanks God, for sending us Kurt Elling." OK, before you drop this page in disbelief, consider a few facts. Singing standards from the great American songbook does not automatically make  ...read more…
In 2006, Kurt Ellling, who has blossomed into the most striking male vocalist in jazz, created a concert tribute to the one album made by tenor sax legend John Coltrane, his landmark quartet of the early 1960s and the obscure, baritone singer Johnny Hartman. Lovingly revisited with inspired performances, Elling and  ...read more…
June 25th, 2009
The historic collaboration between the great John Coltrane and baritone jazz singer Johnny Hartman—is remembered and celebrated in this special tribute album with Kurt Elling voicing standards from the Great American Songbook with the help of saxophonist Ernie Watts, the Laurence Hobgood Trio and ETHEL, a four-piece string section.  ...read more…
Certain jazz singers write their own rules. They don't have to color within the lines because their voices allow them to wander the universe fairly freely. Think of Billie Holiday. Jimmy Scott. Dinah Washington. Louis Armstrong. And then there's Johnny Hartman. His voice is the sound of love. There is  ...read more…
Dedicated To You is a tribute to one of the most beloved and beautiful recordings in jazz, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. On that six song album, John Coltrane introduces a relatively unknown singer named Johnny Hartman. The two musicians had only just met one another, however in a mere  ...read more…
YOU get a bunch of Kurt Ellings when the jazz singer takes the stage - multiple musicalities, if you will. There's the straight ahead singer; the scatter; the master of vocalese; and the hipster, the man with the clothes, mannerisms and voice you expect from a hep cat. But most  ...read more…
Expect Kurt Elling to swing back and forth when he hits the stage here later this month. The critically and popularly acclaimed singer will swing back to 1963 with material from his upcoming release, based on the classic recording John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. He'll jump forth with material from a  ...read more…
A radio show—a public radio show—celebrating its 30th Anniversary is always important news. But this birthday happened in grand (piano) style at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, where the festivities honored Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, probably the most popular show on NPR and certainly the  ...read more…
Kurt Elling can't remember when he first heard "John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman," the iconic 1963 album in which the exploratory saxophonist and bedroom balladeer created some of the sultriest jazz performances ever recorded. The sound of Hartman's suave baritone with Coltrane's magisterial quartet was, as Elling puts it, "always in  ...read more…
Kurt Elling has been stealing songs from the hearts of jazz fans for decades. His lustrous sound combined with witty banter is more than a winning combination, it's what keeps audiences coming to him from all over the world. Elling definitely brought panache and grace to a unseasonably warm Sunday  ...read more…
Kurt Elling is nearly as good a showman as he is a singer -- and that is saying plenty. At his concerts at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Friday, Elling rolled through music that displayed his great style, range and incredible ability at creating lyrics. But he also created a stage  ...read more…
"John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman," the classic 1963 collection of romantic ballads, is so beloved by jazz and pop fans alike that a concert salute to the recording is an easy sell. The hard part comes in creating a performance that sounds worthy of Coltrane and Hartman's inspired and seemingly effortless  ...read more…
February 27th, 2009
Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling. The onetime theology student from Chicago has found a fresh musical territory by channeling, in equal parts, Frank Sinatra, bebop hipster Mark Murphy and an all-night poetry slam. With his soaring vocal  ...read more…
Kurt Elling had some mighty big shoes to fill Sunday night: He was paying tribute to the 1963 ballads album "John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman," which, though only clocking in around half an hour, has been considered a classic for its more than four decade. Both Coltrane and Hartman were in  ...read more…
February 22nd, 2009
Friday night at the University of Minnesota's Ted Mann Concert Hall, singer Kurt Elling and his group paid musical homage to one of the greatest — and most unsung — of all jazz vocalists: the late Johnny Hartman. Elling and a talented ensemble revisited one of the epic jazz-vocal recordings: Hartman's 1963 pairing  ...read more…
February 21st, 2009
The most important part of a jazz singer's body might be between the ears, with nerve and gut instinct not far behind. Sure, the vocal cords, diaphragm and mouth are essential, but if you're singing jazz, you need to make the mundane magic and both challenge and coax listeners to  ...read more…
Mainstream jazz is in a retrospective mood right now, with a multitude of projects exploring the charts and achievements of the great figures of the 1960s. Kurt Elling's investigation of the territory opened up by Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane inhabits the innovative side of this phenomenon, doing as much  ...read more…
Two of Chicago's most innovative jazz artists unveiled their newest music over the weekend, to often startling effect. It has been a long time since singer Kurt Elling offered work that delivered on his early promise. But the sounds he produced Friday night at Wentz Concert Hall, in Naperville, pointed  ...read more…
"John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman,” recorded in 1963, is rightly hailed as one of the finest jazz vocal albums ever made. A marvel of low-flickering intensity, it represents the perfect fulfillment of Hartman's calling as a balladeer, and an improbable peak in Coltrane's ascent as a bandleader. It's one of the  ...read more…
January 17th, 2009
Kurt Elling didn't actually sing the Gershwin's 'S Wonderful – or anything else from the standard jazz repertoire until the encore of My Foolish Heart – but it would have served as the perfect summing-up of this long awaited Scottish debut. Put simply, the Chicagoan is the great jazz singer of his  ...read more…
Kurt Elling is, at one and the same time, a throwback to a classic age and a glimpse into the future. His rich vocal tone embodies every great jazz singer. There's a hint of Sinatra, a touch of Mark Murphy's insouciance, Sheila Jordan's mischief and some of Al Jarreau's honeyed  ...read more…