Kurt's Press Archive - 2012
In sheer talent and bravado, there's not a more remarkable jazz singer out there than Kurt Elling. His instrument, a baritone to tenor beast that is pliant, rich, and utterly athletic, has no peer in jazz. And he has been making a series of records of great  ...read more…
My goal here is to respond in writing to some of the highest quality recent recordings of singing artists—vocalists whose work grows out of the jazz tradition and is, at the same time, boundary-stretching, original, emotionally resonant and a pleasure to listen to. This is by no means  ...read more…
It is a bizarre symptom of the celebrity-culture which permeates Western society that artistry is becoming ever more marginalised. Whilst the UK Top 40 is rammed consistently down the throats of a not-too-resistant listenership, it is at once significantly easier and peculiarly more difficult to branch out, to discover those lesser-known  ...read more…
Sheila Jordan is one of the most creative interpreters of a lyric in jazz. She's now 83 but her performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall belied her years – she was totally on song, beginning and ending her set with a blues. The opening Hum Drum Blues was from her  ...read more…
On Wednesday...at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Kurt Elling blew the fluff off several generations of pop to reveal dark secrets and adult desires. His repertoire celebrates the song-writers who were based in New York's Brill building – he gave us a potted history mid-set – and his superbly  ...read more…
As 'jazz' becomes ever broader, interviews such as 'Hear Me Talkin' To Ya' lend the London Jazz Festival a festive atmosphere, bringing it back to its roots. Sheila Jordan told vibrant and hilarious stories of being squashed into a green VW with Ornette Coleman, travelling to "Max" (Roach) and "Abbey"  ...read more…
Two singers perfectly at home on stage: one invites you to join her as if it's her living room; the other reaches out with vocal power. Sheila Jordan (about to turn 84) and Kurt Elling (about 40 years younger) sang a set each, ending the evening by duetting on Moody's  ...read more…
November 15th, 2012
Kurt Elling walks on stage as if he owns it, launches into Come Fly with Me, and the packed audience greet him as if he were the king of jazz singers. Elling's jazz festival set was dominated by numbers from 1619 Broadway, his latest album of songs that originated in  ...read more…
Just occasionally an artist hits the truth of the song in such spectacular fashion that it makes you feel with ever greater intensity what it means to be human. Last night, vocalist Sheila Jordan's performance of the Jimmy Webb standard, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", a song she  ...read more…
The Brill Building holds a special place in popular music history, not just because of the songs crafted within its walls, but also because of what it has come to represent. The ideal of the Brill Building is associated with songs that soundtrack the lives and loves of millions of  ...read more…
When did you discover jazz? By hearing people like Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee and Andy Williams. My folks liked to drive across the country to visit the grandparents. We'd be out in the desert, all the windows down, eating Velveeta cheese, with these guys on the radio. It  ...read more…
There is probably no building in the world that has provided a setting for more songwriting history than 1619 Broadway in New York. The Brill Building, as it is better known, was built in 1931, and attracted music industry businesses more or less from the date of its completion. Although the name  ...read more…
DownBeat critics' capsule reviews to accompany Jim Macnie's full review in DownBeat's December 2012 issue. A loosely enforced license for Elling to tackle 11 pop gumdrops jazz has mostly ignored. A bit of hokum and much good singing. But there was a reason why jazz and pop split, and these  ...read more…
Two memories from this summer's Newport Jazz Festival: Kurt Elling bending the shape of "Come Fly With Me" into something personalized and provocative, and Elling beaming through the wry lines of Kenneth Patchen's "Job" while onstage with the Claudia Quintet + 1. The singer is a nimble actor. He has  ...read more…
The poetic, technically-dazzling Chicago singer Kurt Elling has become a big star by jazz standards, even if a fondness for understatement, arthouse lyrics and unusual material will keep him from stardom of the Cullum/Krall kind. His new album – 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project – is the best of  ...read more…
A common reaction to singers like Kurt Elling is that they were born a few decades too late. Some might say they missed out on the heyday of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Mel Tormé and thus are consigned to be a retro novelty. But Elling has successfully avoided  ...read more…
When I interviewed Kurt Elling, he was en route from New York to Boston on the Amtrak. The phone reception was spotty and the train was noisy, but Elling's message was clear: he is an ambassador for jazz music. The 44-year-old Chicago native who now calls New York home  ...read more…
Critically acclaimed vocalist Kurt Elling was in top form and quick to demonstrate why he is widely regarded as one of the best male Jazz vocalists around. His incredibly unique take on the Frank Sinatra classic "Come Fly With Me," which appears on his latest album  '1619 Broadway: The  ...read more…
A couple of years ago, the jazz singer Kurt Elling moved from his native Chicago to New York. As he said during his Saturday concert at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, he enjoyed exploring his new habitat, discovering the places where Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk once  ...read more…
Only Kurt Elling could succeed with a musical tribute to a building. Of course, the building in question is the Brill Building, the home to songwriters from Sammy Cahn to Paul Simon, so he does have great material for "1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project." One of the most creative singers  ...read more…
October 25th, 2012
Question: what do 'Jailhouse Rock', 'Walk On By' and 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'' have in common? Answer: they're the tip of a vast iceberg of hits that emanated from midtown Manhattan's fabled Brill Building between the mid- l930s and the early-1970s. And it's  ...read more…
Manhattan's most famous music address remains best known for the brief period during the late 1950s and early '60s when young songwriters like Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Burt Bacharach were churning out the pop and R&B hits that defined the era.  ...read more…
October 23rd, 2012
How do you become a jazz wunderkind at 44 when you didn't really even discover jazz until you were 22? Ask jazz vocal virtuoso and Grammy-Award winner, Kurt Elling. How did he manage that? He would probably say he has no idea. He simply followed his path, circuitous as it may  ...read more…
Kurt Elling is the closest jazz will ever get to having its own saint. The singer's soothing, devotional timbre of his voice's lower register can rise to great heights of exaltation, which we hear in his version of Paul Simon's "American Tune" — flat out the greatest  ...read more…
Top-shelf jazz was highlighted Saturday night at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, a festival that dates back 33 years. As always seems the case, festivalgoers were treated to what felt like the first blast of fall: A sunny day at Coachman Park was followed by an evening of cool breezes and temps  ...read more…
At this point in his stellar career, Kurt Elling probably doesn't need much of an introduction – especially not to jazz fans, who regularly pack his concerts and boost him to the top of readers' polls; and particularly not to Chicago, where he honed his art and rose to  ...read more…
There is arguably no other single location in the history of American popular music that resonates more in history than the Brill Building in New York City, where composers like Carole King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Neil Diamond, Burt Bacharach and Hal David all churned out countless hits. The  ...read more…
"Man, I miss that Green Mill gig," Kurt Elling declares during a call from New York. "I wish there were a way to fly back and still play that every week." The jazz vocalist, who left his native Chicago more than four years ago, reminisces from his Manhattan residence, taking  ...read more…
On his latest album 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project, Kurt Elling takes famous pop songs like Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" and Carole King's "So Far Away," and makes them his own—experimenting with rhythms while adding some haunting harmonies (and extra lyrics on occasion as well).  ...read more…
Singer Kurt Elling seems to be always on the go, working with his fine quartet and lending his artful vocals to a variety of other projects as time allows. Whatever the situation, he brings high aesthetic values and standards. He likes to investigate different musical possibilities under the jazz umbrella,  ...read more…
The man who currently is regarded as "the outstanding male vocalist in jazz today," DownBeat Critics Poll Male Vocalist for thirteen years 2000 - 2012, and Grammy-award winner Kurt Elling (Dedicated To You: 2009), made a one-night appearance at Yoshi's Jazz Club in San Francisco on Wednesday 10th October, 2012 for two shows.  ...read more…
The Brill Building is an 11-story structure situated where Broadway crosses 49th Street seven blocks north of Times Square. Its fame comes not from the Brill Brothers clothing store on the first floor from which it derived its name, but from the popular music that was written in the offices  ...read more…
Is Kurt Elling the best male jazz singer working? That's a question I pondered after I finished Elling's new album for Concord Records "1619 Broadway The Brill Building Project". Elling has stiff competition in Jose James, Milton Suggs, Sachal Vasandani and Gregory Porter. Each singer is unique. James, for  ...read more…
Roseanna Vitro interviews the acclaimed singer about his artistic development, influences and approach. I am excited to have the opportunity to present a candid and informative interview with Kurt Elling, a vocal musician and teacher I have admired since first hearing his version of "Gingerbread Boy" from 1997's Blue Note  ...read more…
October 10th, 2012
On his version of Paul Simon's "American Tune," Kurt Elling sings about observing life and work from both the outside and the inside. As Mr. Simon's lyrics dictate, he dreams he's flying, looking down on his own soul as well as the Statue of Liberty. The song  ...read more…
"There's a melody in stillness I can't seem to play," Kurt Elling sings yearningly, somewhere along the break in his natural range, during one of several muted but breathtaking moments on "1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project." The lyric is his own, part of an extended flourish following the  ...read more…
Onstage, Kurt Elling is an exciting artist and entertainer. He smoothly veers from exalted exuberance to mournful whispers. In one set, he whisks audiences through to an emotional catharsis. Offstage, Elling comes across as what he is: a former philosophy of religion student, someone who is thoughtful and gracious and  ...read more…
Kurt Elling is a jazz vocalist for modern times. He has always been an artist with a vision. The native Chicagoan -- now living in New York City -- has had the uncanny skill and knack for consistently banishing musical borders and creating something fresh and inventive. Elling's blend  ...read more…
This album's title refers to the address of the Brill Building, New York's famed songwriting factory. Kurt Elling sets out to cover several obvious selections from its resident writers, from the heyday of popular song, alongside a handful of less-predictable ditties. These treatments are time-warped into a different  ...read more…
Mike Ragogna: Mister Kurt Elling, thank you for this interview for Huffington Post and those who'll be listening at Solar-Powered KRUU-FM. Kurt Elling: Everything is groovy when it's solar powered, man! MR: [laughs] That's almost like a station ID, thank you. KE: You've got it. MR:  ...read more…
Kurt Elling might have diluted the impact of this memorable session by not wanting to seem irredeemably serious (with the Coasters' "Shoppin' for Clothes," and the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday"), but there are versions of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," Carole King's "So Far Away" and Paul  ...read more…
Kurt Elling was a long-time resident of Chicago, but he and his family have lived in New York City for the past four years. He wanted to record a tribute to the music of Manhattan without treading through the usual path of a standard songwriter tribute. Instead, his new album  ...read more…
"Having done so many projects about my love for Chicago," singer Kurt Elling says, "I wanted to make something that speaks of my love for New York." A New York resident for the past four years, every one of Elling's previous nine albums have been Grammy nominated in the  ...read more…
Kurt Elling celebrates the Brill building's pop-song heyday with a beautifully crafted, razor-edged mix of bittersweet ballads, reconfigured doo-wop and upgraded soul. Elling has a lovely voice and the charm, passion and hip phrasing to fill the most straightforward lyric with emotional ambiguity. Laurence Hobgood's arrangements are equally  ...read more…
Kurt Elling's last album explored what I can only assume was his 1970s record collection, with interpretations of songs by Earth, Wind And Fire, Stevie Wonder, King Crimson and others from the rock and soul arena. This time the Chicagoan is celebrating that other great city, the one where  ...read more…
Forward-thinking jazz vocalist Kurt Elling follows up his progressive 2011 covers album The Gate with his equally ambitious 2012 release, 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project. Where on his last outing, Elling drew upon an array of musical genres and time periods for his song choices, this time he focuses on the fertile  ...read more…
There was a time when reviving the delicate wonders of the Gershwins and Cole Porter represented the leading edge of vocal songcraft. The only risk with such things anymore is smashing into someone else travelling the other way down the very middle of the road. That's what is so  ...read more…
Though he has enjoyed greater acceptance since he burst upon the music world in 1995 with his first album on the Blue Note label titled, Close Your Eyes, Elling's uncompromising devotion to exploring deeply the rhythmic and harmonic freedoms of today's top instrumentalist, paid off quite admirably in his  ...read more…
It seems easy to predict that Kurt Elling's new Concord recording --1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project -- will receive at least one Grammy nomination, as that has been the unprecedented fate of his previous nine releases. It's also become predictable that reviews will cite Brill as  ...read more…
September 15th, 2012
Grammy Award winning vocalist Kurt Elling will release his tenth recording as a leader titled, 1619 Broadway —The Brill Building Project (Concord Jazz), on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Of his ten recordings several of them including Close Your Eyes, Live in Chicago and Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of  ...read more…
As a self-described confrontational artist, Kurt Elling has never lacked confidence in tackling any musical venture. Whether it is a re-imagining of the music of John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman in Dedicated To You or embarking on an evocative song cycle of jazz, pop, rock and soul in The Gate,  ...read more…
Grammy-winning singer-lyricist Kurt Elling is getting ready to release his much-anticipated new album 1619 Broadway. The title refers to the address of the 81-year-old Brill Building on 49th Street in the heart of midtown Manhattan, in New York City. In its heyday, the building was home to the world's best  ...read more…
"The scene is set for dreaming..." A wonderful opening line to one of the most sung jazz standards in the jazz universe, and sung by one of its boldest vocalists. It was mostly this song that had me hurrying to this year's Joy of Jazz as it was the  ...read more…
While I have always "liked" Kurt Elling since I first heard him sing with the Bob Mintzer Big Band, I have continued to look for and wait for that special release that would separate Elling from the pack. 1619 Broadway - The Brill Building Project is the Kurt Elling release I  ...read more…
Jazz Journal: What led him down the jazz path? "I was always peripherally aware of some main ingredients like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and such, but it wasn't until I was in university that some friends were playing Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordon and people like that, and I really  ...read more…
Jazz is a broad church; that a-z in the middle gives a clue to its inclusivity. All the same, and even at a time when jazz musicians are increasingly embracing the music all around them, there can't be too many jazz repertoires that namecheck Del Shannon, Hank Williams, the Steve  ...read more…
THE joke first. The Charlie Hunter trio consists of drummer Derek Phillips and Hunter, who fills the role of both solo guitarist and bass player on his trademark 8-string guitar. From the outset they set up a relentless, virtuoso rhythmic groove that never let up. Kurt Elling bounced on stage  ...read more…
Grammy Award-winning Kurt Elling, regarded as one of music's great jazz vocalists, will be one of the stars at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz this August. He joins a stellar line-up that includes master guitarist Earl Klugh, trombone ace Wycliffe Gordon, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Elling has  ...read more…
Tribute concerts can present daunting challenges, but singer Kurt Elling obviously knows how to avoid them. The reason is fairly simple: he is too good a performer to get caught up doing sappy versions of another person's material. He also is too clever a performer to get trapped by mimicking  ...read more…
When vocalist Kurt Elling was last in Pittsburgh, he sang with the Bob Mintzer Big Band at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Hall. He'll be back there for two shows Saturday but in a much different setting -- with just a backing quintet. And the setting isn't casual, either. Saturday's  ...read more…
Singer Kurt Elling admits there are risks to doing tributes to great artists, but says it is "part and parcel" of being a jazz performer. But he says paying homage to Frank Sinatra has its own special demands. "Sinatra has his own cache," he says about the shows he will  ...read more…
Two renowned jazz vocalists, John Pizzarelli and Kurt Elling, will share the stage at Strathmore. The two, who just happen to be buddies and perform the same genre of music, vow there is no competition between them because they are both firmly grounded in their own sense of style. "John  ...read more…
American jazz vocalist Kurt Elling is a magician. He's capable of weaving a spell from a melody - and he lives and breathes the music while on stage. Elling's remarkable skill is obvious, but never daunting. He can play it straight with the accessibility of The Manhattan Transfer or offer  ...read more…
REVIEW: Dead saxy. That's what Eric Marienthal is, dead saxy and I daresay completely oversaxed. He owned the first half of the show at the Globe Theatre last night, produced some wondrous work with the Wellington Jazz Orchestra, directed by Rodger Fox. Highlight of the first set had to be  ...read more…
Moving as fast he's been known to scat sing to jazz tunes, Kurt Elling is always doing so much it can be hard to keep up. At just 44, his versatility is legendary. The celebrated American jazz singer can approach Nature Boy, first made famous by Nat King Cole, and make  ...read more…
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - "I'm of the generation when Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Quartet were the epitome of cool," says Robert Pinsky, 71, discussing the roots of his earliest creative ambitions. Long before he thought of putting verse to paper, the future US poet laureate distinguished himself among his  ...read more…
In many ways the Kurt Elling Quintet was just the kind of performance you'd want to see on Valentine's Day at The Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Along with special guests, Violinist Regina Carter and Clarinetist Anat Cohen, Elling paid tribute to lovers everywhere as selections chosen for the evening were international  ...read more…
I've seen Kurt Elling perform countless times—seriously, so often I've lost track of the number—but I'd never interviewed him until Thursday, Feb. 16, two days before his performance at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. On Saturday, Feb. 11, he was featured on public radio's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me” (in the  ...read more…
Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis hosts a double Valentine musical gala on Saturday, February 18th, with two of the hottest headliners in vocal music, Kurt Elling and Lizz Wright. They perform back- to-back sets beginning at 8 pm, part of the 2011-2012 Piper-Jaffray Jazz Season. Kurt Elling, one of the most  ...read more…
PETER SAGAL, HOST: And now, the game where people who have done a lot of great things do something else. Kurt Elling is often called the greatest male jazz singer alive. But for many years, he was the Susan Lucci of jazz. (SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER) SAGAL: He'd be nominated for  ...read more…
When the annual Grammy Awards are held on Sunday, February 12, Gustavus Alumnus Kurt Elling '89 will be among the nominees for Best Jazz Vocal Album for his latest jazz album entitled The Gate. For Elling, this is his eleventh Grammy nomination. Elling received his first nomination in 1995 in the Best  ...read more…