Kurt's Press Archive - 2016
This is subtitled Kurt Elling Sings Christmas, and it's as classy a set of seasonal songs and arrangements as you would expect from one of the classiest singers in the world. Familiar songs like We Three Kings and Little Drummer Boy get interpretations that make them sound and feel  ...read more…
When vocalist Kurt Elling, a lifelong Chicagoan, moved his family to New York City in 2008, it wasn't an easy decision. He had been inspired to become a singer because of the city's jazz and blues scene and developed his chops working with some of its leading exponents. "I  ...read more…
My love for Leslie Bricusse's 1970 musical "Scrooge," starring Albert Finney, runs deep. I read Dickens' original "A Christmas Carol" every year. It is not only one of my favorite Christmas books, it is one of my favorite books period. The story of Scrooge's redemption is inspirational to me,  ...read more…
From the Harlem Renaissance through the Beats and the Black Arts Movement, jazz and poetry have long been intertwined. In many ways the two forms are ideally matched: Both can be esoteric and expressive, highly structured or freeform, abstract and profound. But either can also be daunting to approach for  ...read more…
Predictably, Kurt Elling's first Christmas album is anything but predictable. The exquisite quintet session unites Elling with guitarist John McLean, pianist Stu Mindeman, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Kendrick Scott. Intermingling the secular and sacred, they reimagine a couple of holiday standards — a funkified "Little Drummer Boy," and  ...read more…
There was a point about 20 minutes into bandleader and arranger Guy Barker's Christmas big band show – probably after the tom-tom-thundering overture that merged Good King Wenceslas, Jingle Bells and a swath of other seasonal ditties, Clarke Peters had laughed his way through What Will Santa Claus Say When  ...read more…
The great jazz singer Kurt Elling doesn't take the easy way out on his new Christmas album. The Beautiful Day mixes its holiday cheer with the moody and meditative, as he ponders the rites of the holiday and the sometimes roller coaster of emotions that can engulf us. This  ...read more…
With a scene-setting sweep of strings, mellow street-corner brass and a sizzle of cymbals, Guy Barker's celebration of big band music "with a Christmas twist" settled into an opulent fantasia that, for the most part, avoided cheesiness. This was Christmas, New York-style, reconstructed through mid-century big-band Americana, stretching from  ...read more…
The Albert Hall is rapidly becoming synonymous with London's Christmas festivities, even being voted the 'Most Prestigious Christmas Venue' at the Prestigious Star Awards 2016. It continued its seasonal programme last night with a concert from Guy Barker's Big Band, aided by a number of special guests. Barker himself  ...read more…
Whisper it quietly, but this could just possibly be the start of a new tradition. Guy Barker's Big Band Christmas virtually managed to virtually fill the Royal Albert Hall on its first outing. The formula is a balance between familiar and unfamiliar and it definitely works well, propelled along  ...read more…
His album's unlikely subtitle, Kurt Elling Sings Christmas, doesn't signify wall-to-wall jingle bells. Read the three pages of notes if you want to know exactly where he stands, Christmas-wise. But if you want to hear a subtle, beautifully crafted and constantly surprising set of seasonal songs, just  ...read more…
The announcement in August that Kurt Elling had signed to Sony and was planning a Christmas album may have caused some to suspect the American jazz singer had sold out. Yet The Beautiful Day shows him to be as much of a hepcat as ever — singing "we hit the  ...read more…
Forget the standard old tidings of good cheer, the same old set of swinging Christmas standards, and the sugary holiday treats that lack vitality and real sustenance. Kurt Elling certainly paid little mind to them when he was putting together this gem of a program. Instead of taking the road  ...read more…
Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling says of the holidays, "In the Western world, whether you're Christian or not, Christmas has some kind of seasonal relevance to you...You really cannot escape the holiday—even if it is just coming at you on television...for me, the holiday comes enriched  ...read more…
Our CD of the week is a tasty, jazzy holiday offering from vocalist Kurt Elling, with fine jazz support from his compatriots. The Beautiful Day: Kurt Elling Sings Christmas is a thoughtful, wonderfully arranged collection of new and old Christmas material — from "Sing a Christmas Carol" to a particularly  ...read more…
If you run screaming from Christmas muzak that loops endlessly in the malls, then Kurt Elling's holiday album is for you. In characteristically idiosyncratic fashion, the singer sets out to remake and explore the songs, and the spirit, of the season. The result is a brainiac take on Christmas  ...read more…
The idea had been to bring Christmas to Ronnie Scott's a few weeks early, by playing pre-season material from Kurt Elling's new album, The Beautiful Day. But a recent election result seemed to be weighing on his mind; as a result, a pall of anguish and disbelief hung  ...read more…
Kurt Elling, the great American jazz singer, was a divinity student with a church-musician father – experiences that fuelled in him a philosophical intelligence and mistrust of dogma, alongside an affection for communal celebrations that are often glimpsed in his work. Those qualities have never seemed so unexpectedly evident as  ...read more…
Christmas came early to Ronnie Scott's this year. American singer Kurt Elling's latest release, The Beautiful Day, subtitled Kurt Elling Sings Christmas, reimagines more than a dozen seasonally themed songs as life-affirming contemporary jazz. Here he presented four of them in a performance that, like the album, avoided  ...read more…
A poetic and lyrical holiday-themed album, vocalist Kurt Elling's The Beautiful Day is much more than a seasonal production. The album follows up his eclectic 2015 album, Passion World, and arrives on the heels of his collaboration with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, 2016's Upward Spiral. Here, Elling applies his urbane sensibilities  ...read more…
August 15th, 2016
Saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ Quartet has an illustrious 20-year history spanning a series of 15 powerful albums that have tackled everything from John Coltrane's A Love Supreme in its entirety, to 2012's scorching Four MFs Playin' Tunes − always giving acoustic modern jazz a hefty kick up the behind. Yet  ...read more…
The first tableau in this vivid 12-song set is an upbeat croon through "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' for New York" that launches acerbic stabs from Marsalis' soprano sax. Later, sax and vocals intertwine romantically on "Blue Gardenia", are stately and forlorn on "Practical Arrangement" and hint at  ...read more…
Branford Marsalis has mastered most tricks of the sax-player's trade – traditional song-playing lyricism, an advanced post-Coltrane technique (lately coupled with a classical one), and long experience of playing with singers, notably Sting in the 90s. All that colours this memorable meeting between Marsalis' quartet and Kurt Elling, one  ...read more…
If there's any genre of music that's truly built on the idea of spur-of-the-moment change, it's jazz. And so, in that very spirit, we had this performance. The audience that came down to hear the inimitable Kate McGarry on this cool and humid summer night was swiftly  ...read more…
These days democracy in jazz singing is vanishingly rare. On record a star singer will sublimate the band to mere accompaniment. Conversely a star instrumentalist might submit to one or two guest vocal spots to placate the PR. Yet here we have a truly symbiotic meeting with the singer Kurt  ...read more…
A good move on both Marsalis' and Elling's part – I think both needed this kind of stimulus. The quartet is completed by Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums. The programme is a rich and varied mix of solid gold standards  ...read more…
How did one of the best and most important jazz bands around — saxophonist Branford Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner — come to unite with one of the best and most important jazz vocalists? The idea ignited when Marsalis and Kurt Elling met during  ...read more…
Branford Marsalis was born in Breaux Bridge, La. the son of Dolores and Ellis Marsalis. His father is a notable pianist and the leading musical educator in New Orleans. In 1995 saxophonist Branford recorded "Loved Ones" with his father Ellis. He and his brothers Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason complete America's  ...read more…
Titans of modern jazz in their own rights, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and vocalist Kurt Elling bring their immense strengths together on their sophisticated and nuanced collaboration, 2016's Upward Spiral. Perhaps not the first time Marsalis has showcased a vocalist on a recording, it is the first time he's worked  ...read more…
[For English, please put this text into Google Translate or Bing Translator.] Hier et avant-hier soir, le «All Stars Festival» annuel du New Morning débutait avec les très attendus Kurt Elling et Branford Marsalis. Kurt Elling, disons le sans ambage, est le plus grand  ...read more…
A collaboration between an established bandleader and band with an established singer is something that harkens back to a bygone musical age. The teaming of the Branford Marsalis Quartet and singer Kurt Elling is one of those rare and special instances. Upward Spiral is the fantastic documentation of this pairing.  ...read more…
Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Kurt Elling gave an electrifying performance at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., Sunday, June 12. The performance was part of the annual N'DIGO Foundation Gala, an event that raises funds to cover the college tuitions of deserving Chicago youths. Elling, who recently  ...read more…
Not merely a great meeting of a jazz vocalist and instrumentalist but a full and marvelous return to form for two huge jazz figures who've done some fruitless wandering of late. It was, I suppose, an interesting idea for Branford Marsalis to record an unaccompanied record in a church  ...read more…
The moment came in Skylark. The almost relentlessly buzzing imagination and invention fell away as Gary Versace began a piano solo so soft, so sparse and so fragile that Ulysses Owens stopped playing the drums altogether and Clark Sommers provided the barest underpinning on bass. It was the musical equivalent  ...read more…
As explained in the notes on the Branford Marsalis Quartet's album Upward Spiral (featuring Kurt Elling), this is truly a collaborative effort. Everything about the album, from the instrumental musicians' desire to work with a vocalist, to the choice of that vocalist — although when that choice is Kurt  ...read more…
There is always a buzz when Kurt Elling comes to town. He likes to visit us here in Australia on a regular basis and we are fortunate that he makes the long trip from the United States. Last time he was here, Elling performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and  ...read more…
From note one, this album sounds more like a Kurt Elling album backed by the Branford Marsalis Quartet than the other way around. Elling's voice kicks in immediately on the opening cut, Gershwin's "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York." Elling simply dominates the  ...read more…
To one extent or another, jazz has always maintained a discriminatory dividing line between vocalists and instrumentalists. Instead of being viewed as equals — artists on par with all the rest, possessing the same good sense, skill, and stake in an artistic outcome — vocalists have often been unfairly stigmatized  ...read more…
Though Kurt Elling is one of the most well-loved and highly praised jazz singers of our time, he first developed his chops singing Bach motets. As Elling returned to his native Chicago for performances at City Winery, he spoke about how classical music has influenced him throughout his life. Though  ...read more…
May 14th, 2016
Kurt Elling has two or three reasons to be excited – not least among them his return to Australia "with a hot band" – his words. He talks like that, spicing up his phrases with words like "cat", "hot", "magic"; he talks like the jazzman that he is. "I'm  ...read more…
Before we get to the message, let us praise the logistics management. What poor, sleep-deprived soul was tasked with editing down Friday evening's White House jazz concert, hosted by the Obamas, which stretched toward two and a half resourcefully efficient hours, into the single hour that aired on network  ...read more…
"There is something fearless and true about jazz," President Barack Obama said in his opening remarks Friday (April 29) at the White House concert celebrating the fifth annual International Jazz Day — and despite the fact that the show was being recorded for broadcast on national television (it aired the following  ...read more…
JK: One of the standout things to me is that you have a wonderful breadth of projects. You are about to release a recording with Branford Marsalis, you are doing a concert with Lang Lang, you write for Steppenwolf Theatre. What inspires you and what path leads you to these  ...read more…
A few songs into the fifth International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert, on the south lawn of the White House on Friday night, a pointedly multicultural coalition took the stage. Chucho Valdés on piano and Paquito D'Rivera on clarinet formed an eminent Cuban contingent. India had an  ...read more…
Grammy-award-winning saxophone legend Branford Marsalis has always been about inclusion, opening those doors to everybody — not just the physics- and harmonics-minded jazz brainiacs out there unduly focused on chops and technical precision. After meeting another Grammy-award-winning artist, jazz singer Kurt Elling, at a Thelonious Monk Institute competition two years  ...read more…
Jazz has gone to school for decades, and while there is debate about how much institutionalization is good for the music, there's no doubt that more well-schooled musicians have been brought into its purview than since the Swing Era. And there is much to teach and a lot of  ...read more…
Things are looking up for saxophonist Branford Marsalis and vocalist Kurt Elling, who will add a shared title to their respective discographies. The Branford Marsalis Quartet will release Upward Spiral, featuring Elling as a guest vocalist, on June 10. The album will be released via Marsalis Music on OKeh Records. The  ...read more…
We don't often appreciate the impact of someone's life until it's over. Many of late vocalist Mark Murphy's extended family and friends may have been meditating on this during the memorial for him at Saint Peter's (Mar. 14th), because it was abundantly clear by the  ...read more…
I first heard Mark Murphy sing at a little place in Minneapolis called the Artists' Quarter. It was 1987 or '88. I don't know whose idea it was among us provincials to undertake hours of snow-driving from our little college in the dead-of-midnight winter, risking icy roads to spend money we  ...read more…
Kurt Elling is full of it — talent that is. As a vocalist, performer and writer/poet, he is just, simply — off the charts. His performance for Stanford Live at Bing Hall, at Stanford University in Palo Alto on Saturday, February 27 made it clear that he is a major  ...read more…
February 21st, 2016
As arguably the most prominent male jazz vocalist of his Generation X era, Kurt Elling has a plethora of gigging and recoding outlets through which he can ply his commanding vocal delivery and four-octave range. "I'm involved with a nice mixture of things," said the 48-year old Chicago native,  ...read more…
Jazz singer Kurt Elling is an artist in constant forward motion. A master vocalist with virtuoso chops and a deep appreciation of the genre, his career began in the jazz clubs of Chicago, where two of the scene's elder statesmen provided Elling with guidance and encouragement necessary to grow  ...read more…
Who could be a better host for a radio program called This is Cabaret than the fabulous Ann Hampton Callaway? Emanating from the Birdland Jazz Club in Times Square, the first two installments featured jazz singer extraordinaire, Kurt Elling and the unstoppable pop and jazz icon Marilyn Maye. After extolling  ...read more…
Fred and Ginger, tomato and basil, gin and tonic: some pairings are such a natural fit as to seem inseparable. Singer Kurt Elling and pianist Laurence Hobgood were such a match for 20 years, but now the party is apparently over (excepting Hobgood's presence as an arranger), and Elling's  ...read more…
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  ...read more…