Kurt's Press Archive - 2015
Saxophonist Branford Marsalis's quartet and singer Kurt Elling prepared for their upcoming recording in a rare four-night stand at Snug Harbor in New Orleans last week, and photo-journalist extraordinaire Marc PoKempner went each night, enthralled. "It was sort of an open rehearsal for the recording, so the set list  ...read more…
Kurt Elling "It Was a Very Good Year" (1965) "Sinatra is the embodiment of a dominant, swinging singer. His technique is flawless. (Did Sinatra ever sing out of tune?) His delivery is emotionally transparent and rich. His diction is at once relaxed and crystal clear. He is a profound storyteller —  ...read more…
It is difficult to believe that the last time saxophonist Branford Marsalis headlined at Snug Harbor, New Orleans most prestigious modern jazz mecca, was circa 1984. At that time, Marsalis, who appears at the club for a unprecedented four-night stand (December 10 through December 13), co-led a group that was put together by  ...read more…
Talk about a "world music" album. Acclaimed jazz singer Kurt Elling's latest, Passion World, is a literal jazz trip through various international music forms and cutting-edge styles. Elling, a 21st century combo of Johnny Hartman, Jon Hendricks and Mark Murphy, brought a jazz feel to tunes by the Monkees,  ...read more…
Kurt Elling radiates bonhomie, but is more theatrical, grittier maybe, his grey suit tightly buttoned, standing firm, like a Chicagoan should, hands outstretched, as that great tree-trunk of a baritone voice resonates and builds into an almost operatic series of crescendos. He had already made a guest appearance with The  ...read more…
Kurt Elling's four-octave vocal range and easy-swinging style makes him a kind of Sinatra with superpowers, ably supported by the retooled Swingles. We hear singers all the time – perfectly serviceable ones who can carry a tune and sometimes touch our hearts. But it comes as a shock to  ...read more…
Earlier this fall Kurt sat down with Gary Zabinski for a rich and wide-ranging interview for Booth One - Adventures in the Art of Lively Conversation. You can listen to the full 55 minute podcast here. Kurt and Gary have been Chicago friends for a long time, and Kurt sang  ...read more…
November 9th, 2015
Kurt Elling's richly resonant, subtly virtuosic voice is one of the most recognisable and celebrated in jazz earning him a Grammy for his 2009 album Dedicated To You alongside 10 other Grammy nominations, and seen him top numerous critics polls. Yet with the end of his 20-year musical partnership with pianist  ...read more…
Frank Sinatra once said, "I have an over-acute capacity for sadness as well as elation." In his tribute to Ol' Blue Eyes at the Café Carlyle, jazz singer Kurt Elling uncovered the Frank Sinatra essence of communicating both sadness and elation without attempting to imitate Sinatra. He opened with  ...read more…
For his Café Carlyle debut performance, vocalist Kurt Elling celebrates Frank Sinatra's centennial with "Elling Swings Sinatra." Backed by a wonderful band, maybe the largest I've ever seen work this room, featuring Clark Sommers on bass, arranger John McLean on guitar, Jared Schonig on drums, Wayne Tucker  ...read more…
Paying tribute to Frank Sinatra and observing his centenary, Grammy Award-winning vocalist Kurt Elling filled the Café Carlyle with jazz and romance in his debut at the historic venue on October 13. The delightful evening (Elling Swings Sinatra) gave new inspiration to well-known standards with Mr. Elling's unique arrangements,  ...read more…
Making his Café Carlyle debut with a Sinatra tribute, Kurt Elling took over the room—charming, and so thoroughly practiced and confident that he was clearly in charge of the night — and Sinatra. Without a word, he lit right into "Come Fly with Me" and "In the  ...read more…
Kurt Elling's opening number in his Sinatra show was "Come Fly With Me" but no music civilian can fly with Kurt, he sang it in 6/8 time. In non musical terminology that simply means you might be a little upended trying to snap your fingers and tap your foot to  ...read more…
October 13th, 2015
On 07 November at Bosanski kulturni centar within 19th Jazz Fest Sarajevo American vocalist Kurt Elling is going to perform a concert introducing his new album Passion World where he also appears as an author. All of this artist’s previous 10 releases have earned him a Grammy award nomination, while  ...read more…
Throughout this year of Frank Sinatra's centennial, singer Kurt Elling has been on a mission: re-interpreting some of the patriarch of pop's best-known songs for a new generation of listeners. Backed by a sextet of Clark Sommers on bass, John McLean on guitar, Jared Schonig on drums, Wayne  ...read more…
When I first tried to listen to Kurt Elling's new album Passion World, I had a hard time getting through it. That's because whenever I got to the seventh track – his cover of U2's Where the Streets Have No Name – I had to stop, hit  ...read more…
To get a sense of just how radical it was for Grace Cathedral to commission Duke Ellington's "A Concert of Sacred Music" as the centerpiece of the church's 1965 consecration, consider what was happening on the other side of the country. In May of that year, the Pulitzer Prize  ...read more…
Kurt Elling wrapped the audience around his finger from the moment he stepped out on stage– right after a smooth introduction by Bill Charlap, the pianist and artistic director of the 92Y Jazz in July Festival. Throughout the night, the ensemble, also including Harry Allen on tenor sax, Warren  ...read more…
Every baritone jazz singer has to stand comparison to Frank Sinatra, whose shadow looms over them so unremittingly, you want to take pity and just equip them all with miners' helmets. And it's true that in terms of sheer tonal beauty, Kurt Elling — the bari-jazzman of the moment  ...read more…
DownBeat critics' capsule reviews to accompany John McDonough's full review in DownBeat's August 2015 issue. Kurt Elling, Passion World I was waiting for the wrong move that never came. The Björk cover was a near miss, the least casual and natural seeming, but it doesn't spoil  ...read more…
August 6th, 2015
Globe-trotting romance was stylish and sexy in the '50s when Frank Sinatra hit the friendly skies with Come Fly With Me. Kurt Elling works in that tradition here, though both the times and the flight plan have changed. He's gathered up international material from Björk to Brahms  ...read more…
Every single one of singer Kurt Elling's 10 previous albums has been nominated for a Grammy Award (he won in 2009). Now comes album #11, Passion World, five years in the making, is a world music potpourri of intriguing images, melodies, sadness and surprise. Augmenting his usual quintet are a few friends  ...read more…
July 27th, 2015
Kurt Elling's latest, his second with bassist Clark Sommers, drummer Kendrick Scott and guitarist John McLean, is also his first without pianist and arranger Laurence Hobgood. (Keyboardist Gary Versace now completes the ace quintet.) It's a momentous turning point. Hobgood served as his musical Boswell for nearly two  ...read more…
In an ideal world Kurt Elling would be known beyond the jazz world, in many ways he reminds me of Michael Bublé with his stage presence and commanding voice and his ability to reinvent to any song. He has been named Male Singer of the Year eight times by  ...read more…
July 12th, 2015
"I always knew, I'd fall for the girl next door/To stay at home with love would be my great reward." Kurt Elling's Passion World begins on a note of raw and wistful melancholy that runs — sometimes breathlessly, sometimes haltingly — through most of the songs on  ...read more…
July 10th, 2015
Constantly on the road, jazz singer Kurt Elling has harvested passions from around the world and channeled them into his eleventh studio album, Passion World. Elling takes us through Scotland, France, Germany, Ireland, Iceland, Cuba and Brazil, showcasing his vocal diversity through varying jazz traditions. His driving vocals are effortlessly  ...read more…
The Malta Jazz Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer and a plethora of renowned local and foreign artists are taking to the stage to make this year's edition one of the most memorable yet. Among those artists is Kurt Elling, an American jazz vocalist, composer, lyricist and vocalese  ...read more…
Jazz singers have always traveled. To make a living as a jazz singer has always meant hitting the road. Bessie Smith did it and literally died on the road after an automobile accident. Billie Holiday did it; even more so after her cabaret card was revoked by the City of  ...read more…
For too long, those who think seriously about jazz have tended to organize the music in terms of a historical sequence of stylistic "begats": New Orleans begat Hot Jazz, which begat swing, which begat bebop, which in turn begat the postmodern era. In his latest album, "Passion World," singer Kurt  ...read more…
As the summer jazz festival season gears up, a glance at its sometimes crowded bills sees singers jostling for space. Jazz is a predominantly instrumental tradition and it can be tough for vocalists to get a look in. One of the exceptions is the American singer Kurt Elling, who next  ...read more…
The note-bending, soul-patch-sporting, Grammy-winning jazz singer Kurt Elling lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their daughter, Luiza, in a two-bedroom rental on the Upper West Side. The window in the eat-in kitchen offers a view of glorious sunsets (much photographed by the family); there are gracious prewar touches like molding;  ...read more…
Album number 11 from Kurt Elling sees the singer casting his stylistic net far and wide, its eclectic song list drawing not only on Brazilian and Cuban music, but also on French chanson, Brahms, and traditional Scottish music. With an impressive list of musical collaborators including Richard Galliano, Sara Gazarek, Arturo  ...read more…
On "Passion World," jazz singer Kurt Elling expands his musical horizons way beyond his previous CD, "1619 Broadway-the Brill Building Project," which focused on classic pop tunes by the songwriting teams housed in a single Manhattan building. Here he uses his expressive, rich baritone to perform music from three continents in  ...read more…
June 22nd, 2015
It was more In the Wee Small Hours than Songs for Swinging Lovers. It was a rainy, damp, dark night on New Haven Green. An orchestra played and a man sang anyway, because that's what they do. Over 1,000 hardy souls hung out on the Green Saturday night despite the  ...read more…
Kurt Elling grew up the son of a Lutheran church Kapellmeister and learned early on that music is transporting. "It can move people's imaginations," says the Chicago-born jazz vocalist and composer in advance of his appearance at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival on June 23. Elling's own imagination is  ...read more…
On tour promoting one of his most challenging recordings, the standout, constantly evolving jazz vocalist Kurt Elling performs with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra in a free concert on Saturday, June 20, at 7:00 pm as part of New Haven's International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Elling, whose new, bold CD  ...read more…
Toward the end of Tuesday's Pittsburgh Jazz Celebration, guest artist Ramsey Lewis asked the rhetorical question, "What would I be without Pittsburgh?" Perhaps a better question would be: What would jazz have become without Pittsburgh? The concert, at Heinz Hall and hosted by singer/actress Gloria Reuben, comprised an  ...read more…
Some of the guests were missing at the Pittsburgh Jazz Celebration. They were the musicians who are moving the music further into the 21st century. On positive side, the June 16 concert at Heinz Hall, Downtown, was a rich look at Pittsburgh's jazz legacy, featuring a truly marvelous performance by  ...read more…
Trying to set up an interview with acclaimed jazz singer Kurt Elling is tricky. An early-June proposed interview date didn't happen, as Elling had shows in Scotland, and then flew directly to Australia, where he performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Earlier this year, Elling, a Chicago native, played  ...read more…
Gustavus Adolphus grad and Grammy-winning vocalist Kurt Elling released his 11th album last week, "Passion World." It's his broadest, most diverse recording yet, and it offers ways in for all kinds of listeners, jazz fans or not. Elling won his Grammy for "Dedicated to You," which came out in 2009.  ...read more…
June 15th, 2015
In his years on the Concord Jazz label, Kurt Elling has recorded several impressive concept albums, and his latest disc "Passion World" may be his most ambitious project to date. It collects love songs from all over the globe, sung by Elling in six different languages. The music includes songs  ...read more…
The ways in which passion is expressed in song vary from nation to nation, Kurt Elling maintains. Melody, language and style of expression are intimately connected and that's why he sings these 12 songs from around the world in their original languages, with his jazz style subtly adjusted, and joined  ...read more…
There are few singers in the world today who work as hard as Kurt Elling to build strong bridges across musical boundaries. His latest album is called Passion World, and it lives up to its name as a global span of ardent emotions expressed in very diverse songs. Elling is,  ...read more…
This collection of songs from around the world are what singer Kurt Elling candidly terms his "charmers" – songs he uses "to extend a hand" to local audiences while on his travels. So there are songs here in many languages, each burnished by Elling's gorgeous baritone, and each delivered  ...read more…
Designed to reflect Kurt Elling's multicultural life on the road, Passion World presents the jazz-vocals virtuoso at work in English, French, Portuguese and German, with two orchestras (Tommy Smith's Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and Germany's WDR), and star soloists including Smith on sax, Cuban trumpet maestro Arturo  ...read more…
I'm trying to remember when I first heard Kurt Elling. I'm pretty sure it was while driving, on my way to teach a trumpet lesson many years ago, on CJRT, on Ted O'Reilly's show. I think Ted played Kurt's version of "My Foolish Heart" from  ...read more…
Jazz vocalist luminary Kurt Elling this week releases his new CD, "Passion World," and embarks on a world tour for it at Birdland, the jazz club in New York. The CD, from Concord Jazz, is five years in the making, springing from a concert Elling gave at Jazz at Lincoln  ...read more…
Kurt Elling made much of his name for his vocal improvisations over famous jazz solos But is most distinctive quality is his richness of tone, like liquid chocolate, but with a rough edge that prevents him ever descending into sentimentality. It was a tone showcased in his performance with the  ...read more…
Both a virtuoso and a journeyman, a traditionalist and a chance taker, singer Kurt Elling has built a career upon defying expectations while also celebrating the standards of the vocal jazz tradition. An adept vocalist with an eloquent set of skills that find him moving easily between literate, kinetic vocalese,  ...read more…
Back at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival last year the U.S singer (arguably the finest male singer of his generation) was road-testing the concept of a world tour in song. This is it, with an impressive range of material as Elling continues to test himself for versatility. We get the  ...read more…
Kurt Elling is always inspiring. Gig to gig. Album to album. He's always expanding and extending his musical horizon. Passion World is certainly his most ambitious album yet. Some of the inspiration comes from his singing for many years around this passionate world. Encountering other cultures, other musicians. Wherever  ...read more…
Let's be honest: when jazz is performed in an orchestral setting, the results are often less than satisfying. The orchestra – especially when accompanying a jazz ensemble – is frequently reduced to swelling strings, jaunty interludes and brass-studded climaxes, falling silent whenever the "real" jazz players take their  ...read more…
According to the quote from the Washington Post used to promote Kurt Elling's performances with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, "he has come to embody the creative spirit in jazz," and certainly there was plenty of creative spirit on display for his second and final performance at this year's  ...read more…
Kurt Elling has never been one to fight shy of risk. Long stretches of vocalese? Try A New Body and Soul from the album Nightmoves. Notes seemingly held for minutes at a time? How about Higher Vibe from Man In The Air? For vocal acrobatics and jazz chops in general,  ...read more…
"I LOVE playing with big orchestras and big bands," Kurt Elling says. It doesn't get much bigger than the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. So earlier today, in rehearsals ahead of weekend concerts at Hamer Hall, the legendary US jazz vocalist cut loose. One moment, Elling's distinctive baritone was gliding  ...read more…
In April 2002, I was fortunate to attend the annual Tartan Week in New York celebrating Scottish heritage and culture and our contribution to the United States. In downtown Chelsea, the Distilled contemporary music festival included Mull Historical Society and the talented young Jazz Saxophonist Tommy Smith, who wowed the crowd  ...read more…
In celebrating Frank Sinatra's centenary Kurt Elling recalled jazz writer Leonard Feather saying that a singer, to paraphrase slightly, could either try and sound like Sinatra, in which case he'd end up simply sounding like he was trying to sound like Sinatra, or he could do it wrong.  ...read more…
One of the world's leading jazz vocalists breezed into Dundee last night with one thought on his mind; making great music with one of the world's finest jazz orchestras. Last night in the capacious chamber of the city's Caird Hall he did just that, and the Scottish  ...read more…
Harold Mabern, veritable titan of the piano whose vibrant disc, Right on Time, launched Smoke Sessions Records' critically acclaimed jazz series, is back with another winning album, Afro Blue. This time he is working with both his basic quartet—tenor sax man Eric Alexander, bassist John Webber, and drummer  ...read more…
For those of us of a certain age, it's hard – and not a little disquieting – to realise that Ol' Blue Eyes would have been 100 this year. That's right: Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, on 12 December, 1915. One of the best-selling and most influential  ...read more…
Perhaps it was only fitting that Kurt Elling, one of the finest jazz singers of this generation, opened his Celebrity Series show with an homage to the previous generation's vocal king. His version of one of Frank Sinatra's signature tunes, "Come Fly with Me," is quintessential Elling: an  ...read more…
This Wednesday, May 20, there is only one place to be – Sage Gateshead. Kurt Elling, the pre-eminent singer of his generation, is in town. Chicago-born Elling will be singing with the finest big band in the land, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in a programme celebrating the centenary of the  ...read more…
Kurt Elling, returning to the stage for his encore, drolly acknowledged that he was pushing pre-sales of his forthcoming album pretty hard when the Celebrity Series of Boston brought him to Sanders Theatre Friday night. "It's crass, I know," the singer said, "but jazz is in a jam." "Passion  ...read more…
KURT ELLING appeared at this year's Cheltenham Jazz Festival in Radio 2's "Friday Night Is Music Night" tribute to Frank Sinatra, with Guy Barker and the BBC Orchestra, and fellow singers Anthony Strong and Clare Teal. He is also working with Barker on a new drama production based on  ...read more…
Passion World is more than the famous guest musicians on the same page, the expansive, diverse track list, and the Grammy-winning caliber of the featured jazz vocalist. Kurt Elling's fifth Concord album (11th in his discography) is the artist's essential make-up in 14 deeply felt, well thought out  ...read more…
Kurt Elling is the one of the finest contemporary jazz singers of recent times, but he's also noted for a thoughtful eclecticism that matches his undoubted artistry. A string of acclaimed albums, countless bravura performances and numerous inventive collaborations suggest that there are few challenges that the man from  ...read more…
As a nearly perennial visitor to the Bistro stage, modern-day crooner Kurt Elling is considered by many to be one of the highlights of the Jazz St. Louis season. The Chicago native attracts fans from all generations to his shows, and more than a handful stayed for the second set  ...read more…
Harold Mabern has always enjoyed the challenge of working with singers. He recorded with Betty Carter, Bill Henderson and Johnny Hartman, and on his new album, "Afro Blue" (Smoke Sessions Records), he adds collaborations with five current vocalists. Gregory Porter effectively mixes his mercurial scat chops with the well-known vocalese  ...read more…
The two CDs under review this month [Jeremy Siskind's "Housewarming" and Harold Mabern's "Afro Blue"] are both led by pianists; however, they both qualify as vocal albums since the majority of the tracks on each disc feature singers. There's been a trend in recent jazz releases to  ...read more…
Kurt Elling knows he will never out-Sinatra Frank Sinatra. But as a Grammy Award winning and internationally renowned jazz vocalist, Elling being himself is a pretty good thing. Elling will take on the catalog of Ol' Blue Eyes himself this Saturday night at the Kirkland Fine Arts Center in a  ...read more…
To describe Kurt Elling as a jazz singer is only part of the story. He is also an explorer, a scholar, a poet, a historian, a photographer, a traveller and widely acknowledged king of his artform. At once, and in his stylish, idiosyncratic way, Elling's vast repertoire pays homage  ...read more…
The spring of 2015 is set to burst into wonderful life as the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO), now in its twentieth year, and their very special guest Kurt Elling celebrate the birth centenary of a truly household name in popular music, Frank Sinatra. Sinatra has been called many things, from  ...read more…
One of the themes of this year's Portland Jazz Festival, presented by Alaska Airlines under the omniscient direction of Don Lucoff, was the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra's birth. Two panels were devoted to the subject, the first featuring Kurt Elling and Bill Charlap chaired by Sinatra scholar  ...read more…
To say that Kurt Elling and Frank Sinatra have a lot in common would be an understatement at best. Sinatra shaped his era's musical landscape and was its dominant force for decades. Elling, too, is shaping the contemporary male jazz scene, having won the Downbeat Critics Poll for the  ...read more…
February 28th, 2015
Segerstrom Center for Performing Arts hit a home run in their outstanding jazz series with Elling Swings Sinatra. Set up like an upscale jazz club with low lighting, and round tables for four the Samueli Theater was the perfect venue for an evening with Elling and Sinatra. Award winning Kurt  ...read more…
He was known as "The Voice." And Kurt Elling remembers how, when he was a child, those vocal cords stood out. Elling, the son of a high school band instructor, often listened to the music his parents played on the family stereo. His father favored swing and big band, which  ...read more…
The first weekend of the Portland Jazz Festival surpassed the usual high expectations, particularly in the piano department. The festival, which runs through Sunday, March 1, took the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra's birth as a mini-theme, offering concerts dedicated to "ol' blue eyes" by vocalist Kurt Elling and pianist  ...read more…
Kurt Elling was talking about the Grammys. Not this year's, with Beck and Beyonce and Kanye West's big mouth. But the first one, in 1959, where Frank Sinatra competed against himself for Album of the Year, and was up for Song and Record of the Year with "Witchcraft," with  ...read more…
Jazz sure needed Kurt Elling when he eased onto the scene in the 1990s. Male jazz singing had been in a rut ever since the demise of the swing era. Elling, who performs this weekend at SFJAZZ Center, shook off the cobwebs with a brashly original style that combined influences  ...read more…
On the most romantic night of the year, Grammy Award- winning jazz vocalist, Kurt Elling's Passion World concert at The Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater was a warm toddy to take the chill off the howling winds and snowy dusting over DC on Valentine's Day. The soon-to-be released  ...read more…
There'll never be another Frank Sinatra. But we do have Kurt Elling. The jazz singer will take on Ol' Blue Eyes' catalog at the Portland Jazz Festival on Friday, Feb. 20 with the Art Abrams Swing Machine Big Band, in a celebration of the year the American icon would've  ...read more…