Kurt's Recent News

Upward Spiral - Grammy nominated

On December 6 when the 59th annual Grammy nominations were announced, Upward Spiral (OKeh Records/Sony Music Masterworks), by the Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Jazz Vocal category!

Every track on Upward Spiral confirms the beyond-category strengths of both the Quartet and Elling. "No one in the band had to make adjustments, because good musicians can play many styles of music," Marsalis notes. "We're fully engaged with one another when we're playing, so it was easy to engage with Kurt. The only adjustment was not to play long solos, but if making the music sound good means playing less, you play less."

Elling adds that "My thing is always about tailoring what I do to the vision and personality of the band, and Branford's quartet is a real working band, which is both an incredible luxury and incredibly important for the music. They provided everything on a silver platter."

The goal from the outset was to create a true partnership. "I usually reject the word 'collaboration,'" Marsalis admits, "because it implies a third thing from that which each collaborator does well. I don't need a collaborator to do what I normally do, and Kurt doesn't, either. But this time, none of us were going to do what we normally do. The goal here, even though he sings lyrics, was to highlight Kurt's voice as an instrument."

For Marsalis, Upward Spiral is consistent with all of his previous music. "My philosophy of jazz is that it should be about strong melodies and a great beat, and every song here has a melody that you can hold in your mind, that you can sing. This is not jazz as a personal think tank, where people are only concerned with impressing everyone already inside of the tank with deconstruction and reharmonization. This is the kind of music that should expand our base to include people who would like jazz if it were friendlier. From the minute Kurt started performing with us, it was all good."

As Dan Bilawsky wrote for All About Jazz:

Whether on or off the bandstand, Marsalis doesn't mince words or ideas. Due to that fact, few vocalists are really up to the challenge of entering his orbit and thriving in such a climate. In Elling, however, Marsalis has found one who's every bit his match. The saxophonist and his quartet mates are able to telescope focus toward Elling's warm, strong, and pliant voice, and Elling is able to accentuate the inherently melodic and lyrical qualities in this group's work. The beauty in Marsalis' music isn't cited often enough, as many tend to focus exclusively on the edgier side of his sound. This project rectifies that problem.

While there are far more ambitious outings in the respective discographies of both of these marquee names, there's nothing more arresting in either man's portfolio. Beauty becomes these musicians. They carry the torch of grace to the heavens in their own inimitable upward spiral.

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held February 12, 2017 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on CBS.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling resumes their extensive Upward Spiral tour in January 2017.

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Branford Marsalis formed his own quartet in 1986. Known for the telepathic communication among its uncommonly consistent personnel, its deep book of original music replete with expressive melodies and provocative forms, and an unrivaled spirit in both live and recorded performances, the Branford Marsalis Quartet has long been recognized as the standard to which other ensembles of its kind must be measured.

Marsalis is a three-time Grammy winner, and (together with his father and brothers) was named Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2010.

Grammy winner Kurt Elling won the DownBeat Critics Poll for fourteen consecutive years and was named "Male Singer of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions. An international jazz award winner, this is his eleventh Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

As always, bountiful congratulations to Kurt Elling and the Branford Marsalis Quartet – Branford Marsalis, saxophones; Joey Calderazzo, piano; Eric Revis, bass; and Justin Faulkner, drums!

On November 25, 2016, Live From Lincoln Center on PBS television presented the internationally acclaimed pianist Lang Lang and his love letter to New York, the city he considers his adoptive home, set to the music that helped make this city so famous.

This very special one-night only concert was performed at Lincoln Center on May 3, 2016.

Embracing a wide range of styles and voices to capture New York's magic, Lang Lang's New York Rhapsody featured music from Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Danny Elfman to Lou Reed, Alicia Keys, and Don Henley, including a rare performance of the original 1924 jazz band arrangement of George Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue."

Lang Lang & his special guests

Joining Lang Lang in an intimate evening of duets were celebrated artists Rufus Wainwright, Kurt Elling, Suzanne Vega, Regina Spektor, Andra Day, Lindsey Stirling, Sean Jones, Jerry Douglas, and Lisa Fischer, with a 30-piece orchestra under the musical direction by David Lai.

Lang Lang & his special guests

Kurt Elling's superb performance of Don Henley's "New York Minute" was one of the evening's highlights.

Watch Kurt and Lang Lang perform "New York Minute" here:

The pianist Lang Lang has been hailed as one of the greatest classical performers of our time - an artist whose virtuosity and passion are matched by his consummate sense of showmanship. Lang Lang's New York Rhapsody is the complex portrait of a city in transition, delivered in words and music by artists who have been touched by its unsettling magic.

Watch the full Live From Lincoln Center concert video with bonus interviews here.

Live From Lincoln Center: Lang Lang's New York Rhapsody is also available on DVD.

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In the lead up to Live From Lincoln Center broadcast, PBS released a series of short videos featuring Lang Lang's special guests. In his video, Kurt Elling talks about jazz spots in Greenwich Village and performs "Billie's Bounce" with pianist Bill Charlap at Mezzrow.

Watch it here.

(Unfortunately PBS has not made this short video available in all countries - our apologies!)

The Beautiful Day Tour 2016

The Kurt Elling Quintet, with Kurt Elling (voice), Stu Mindeman (piano), Clark Sommers (bass), John McLean (guitar), and Ulysses Owens (drums), takes The Beautiful Day: Kurt Elling Sings Christmas on tour, beginning with the CD Release Celebration at New York's Birdland from October 26-29, and then continuing in Europe in November.

They'll also perform holiday concerts in December at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston and The Hamilton in Washington, DC.

For all the tour details and ticket links, please see:

The Beautiful Day 2016 Tour Dates

Kurt Elling's First Holiday Album, Released Worldwide October 28, 2016 on OKeh Records/Sony Music Masterworks

Previews of The Beautiful Day
Order on Amazon
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Streaming on Spotify

The Beautiful Day 2016 Tour Dates

The Beautiful Day
When Kurt Elling embraced the meaning, the spirit and the word Christmas in creating his new album The Beautiful Day: Kurt Elling Sings Christmas (OKeh), he also wanted to make a holiday album that celebrates the promise and magical energy of the Christmas season that touches people of all faiths and beliefs. Inventive and fresh, The Beautiful Day reimagines the sounds of Christmas, mixing traditional carols decked out in new arrangements with songs that are revelations and rediscovered treats.

While its vibrant pedigree is jazz, The Beautiful Day allowed Elling's imagination to range far and wide in finding the right songs to hit what he called "the sweet spot." Elling created the arrangements himself, with pianist Stuart Mindeman and his longtime collaborators, guitarist John McLean, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Kendrick Scott.
Kurt Elling
"In the Western world, whether you're a Christian or not, Christmas has some kind of seasonal relevance to you," Elling said. "You can't really escape the holiday – even if it's just coming at you on television … For me, the holiday comes enriched with a lot of beautiful personal memories. It also comes freighted with the knowledge that millions of other people around the world carry their own memories, and not all those are of happy occasions. So it was daunting to take on something with so much history and resonance. I hope that with this material I found the sweet spot."

Included on The Beautiful Day are traditional carols – "Little Drummer Boy" and "We Three Kings" – in striking new arrangements, as well as the wistful folk-rock of Dan Fogelberg ("Same Old Lang Syne") and the jazz-and-gospel-influenced soul of Donny Hathaway ("This Christmas"). A trio of popular contemporary Christmas songs - Terre Roche's "Star of Wonder," Alfred Burt & Wihla Hutson's "Some Children See Him," and Claude & Ruth Thornhill's "Snowfall" – are heard, as well as a recent arrival, "The Snow is Deep on the Ground" by John Hollenbeck & Kenneth Patchen. Elling also created a new song ("The Michigan Farm"), writing lyrics to a melody by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

A charming rediscovery on The Beautiful Day is a handful of songs – including the album's title track, with a vocal by Elling's daughter Luiza – from Leslie Bricusse's Oscar-nominated but often overlooked score for the film musical Scrooge (1970), based on Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Throughout The Beautiful Day, the beloved Czech carol "Wenceslas" – with its tale of Christmas love and generosity of spirit – appears three times, the basis for strikingly different musical impressions of the atmosphere of Christmas.

"It's a funny thing, going in to make a Christmas record – a strange, exhilarating, challenging thing – especially when your father was a church musician, as mine was, and so much of your childhood was based around the church calendar and preparing music for religious observances," Elling said. "The music on this album has meaning; it's inclusive; it's seasonal, by which I mean the actual season of winter in North America; and it has a little bit of searching weight to it – avoiding, I hope, the usual seasonal cliché."

Release date: October 28, 2016

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Track listing:

Sing a Christmas Carol
Leslie Bricusse; arranged by John McLean, Kurt Elling

Wenceslaus (Image I)
Traditional; arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

Star of Wonder
Terre Roche; arranged by Stuart Mindeman

We Three Kings
John Henry Hopkins, Jr.; additional lyrics by Tori Amos
arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

Christmas Children
Leslie Bricusse; arranged by Clark Sommers

Wenceslaus (Image II)
Traditional; arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

Some Children See Him
Alfred Burt, music / Wihla Hutson, lyrics; arranged by John McLean

Little Drummer Boy
Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati, Harry Simeone; arranged by Kurt Elling

Wenceslaus (Image III)
Traditional; arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

The Michigan Farm (Cradle Song, Op. 41/1)
Edvard Grieg, music / Kurt Elling lyrics; arranged by Stuart Mindeman

The Snow is Deep on the Ground / Snowfall
John Hollenbeck, music / Kenneth Patchen, poetry / Archie Randolph Ammons, poetry
Claude Thornhill, music / Ruth Thornhill, lyrics
arranged by Stuart Mindeman, Kurt Elling

Same Old Lang Syne
Dan Fogelberg; arranged by Stuart Mindeman

This Christmas
Donny Hathaway, music / Nadine McKinnor, lyrics; arranged by Stuart Mindeman

The Beautiful Day
Leslie Bricusse; arranged by John McLean

GRAMMY-winning, world-renowned jazz singer Kurt Elling has just signed a recording contract with OKeh/Sony Music Masterworks.

His forthcoming album, The Beautiful Day, is set to release on October 28, 2016. It will be Elling's first release on OKeh, as well as his first holiday album.

Regarded as one of the world's foremost jazz vocalists, Elling won the DownBeat Critics Poll for fourteen consecutive years and was named "Male Singer of the Year" by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions. An international jazz award winner, Elling has also been GRAMMY nominated a dozen times. His most recent works include the full length album, Upward Spiral with Branford Marsalis, and a live performance of "New York Minute" with the superstar pianist Lang Lang for the upcoming PBS special Live from Lincoln Center.

Elling's rich baritone spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which are springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word, and poetry.

He is regarded by The New York Times as "...the standout male vocalist of our time." The Washington Post adds, "Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling."

Of the signing Elling says, "I am very excited about starting a new relationship with OKeh. OKeh A&R head, Wulf Muller, reminds me of the late Bruce Lundvall in his enthusiasm for the music and his love for his artists. Wulf has been a friend of mine for years and I know that I will have his full support moving forward - both as an artist and a business partner.”

The new album will be supported by a tour across Europe and the East Coast, USA.

Sony Music Masterworks comprises Masterworks, Sony Classical, OKeh, Portrait, Masterworks Broadway and Flying Buddha imprints.