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 is called "Passion World," celebrates his latest tour de force -- a collection of romantic songs of love and loss from around the world -- as he presents his wide-ranging, expressive artistry with the NHSO on the historic New Haven Green.
"Romance is one of the things that most countries share," Elling has explained of his song cycle rooted in romance, "and I've noticed how different communities have their own ways of singing about love and heartbreak."
On "Passion World," the singer, who, for all the syllabic acrobatics of his scatting, is profoundly passionate about words, their meaning and poetic resonance, fearlessly sings a polyglot variety of songs of the heart in five different languages: Spanish, French, Portuguese, German and, of course, English.
Never risk averse, Elling also dares to tackle a stylistically daunting variety of pieces and vocal styles from around the globe. Odes to romance and love's joy and sorrow, they range from Cuban composer Félix Reina Altuna's potent mix of macho and vibrato on "Si Te Contara" to the traditional Scottish song, "Loch Tay Boat Song," a lament on unrequited love, skillfully navigated by Elling with a little bit of help from Scotland's stellar jazz saxophonist Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.
Elling pours his heartfelt passion and artful craft into his international repertoire rooted in romantic themes. The troubadour travels on his CD trek from U2's humanitarian reflections on "Where the Streets Have No Name" to Brazilian singer/songwriter Dorival Caymmi's festive "Você Já Foi à Bahia" in a breezy duet with singer Sara Gazarek. There's even a stopover with German composer Johannes Brahms' "Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht," a German art song, or lied, leading him into the American art song form called the jazz ballad.
As a word-addicted lyricist, Elling chooses as the grand finale for "Passion World" a poem by the great Irish writer James Joyce, "Where Love Is," with music by the Irish composer Brian Byrne.
For his concert on the Green, Elling will focus on material from his new CD along with tribute selections to mark Frank Sinatra's centennial. To celebrate the centennial, the festival is hosting Sinatra: An American Icon, the official travelling exhibition of The 2015 Frank Sinatra Centennial. It's free and open daily through June 27 in galleries at 1156 Chapel Street.
Elling will join a panel discussion on Sinatra's wide-ranging musical and cultural influence on Sunday, June 21, at 3:00 pm in another free festival event at Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel Street. Among other expert panelists is Sinatra's daughter Tina Sinatra.