2017 GRAMMY Nomination for Upward Spiral!
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 Upward Spiral tour in January 2017.
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!