2019 GRAMMY Nomination for The Questions!

On December 7 when the 61st annual Grammy nominations were announced, renowned jazz vocalist Kurt Elling was honored with the Grammy nomination for The Questions in the Best Jazz Vocal category. This is his fourteenth Grammy nomination.
Elling received the Grammy for Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman, and nearly all of his albums have been Grammy nominated.

The Questions 2019 Grammy Nominee

The Questions is Elling's musical response to this moment in history and the widespread anxiety of our times. It touches artfully on challenges – personal, political, global, spiritual, and existential – and on hopes and aspirations for the future. Elling offers a vibrant and surprising choice of songs, from Bob Dylan and Paul Simon classics to jazz, Broadway, and the Great American Songbook, plus two new originals.

The Questions unfolds into a rich and irresistible musical conversation, encouraging listeners to join Elling in living with big questions and finding the courage to face our fears in difficult and uncertain times.

Live the questions now. And perhaps you will then gradually,
without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Of the ten songs on The Questions, Elling says, “At first I didn't understand how they were going to relate to each other.” The title finally came to him as the album was being mixed. NEA Jazz Master and celebrated saxophonist Branford Marsalis co-produced The Questions with Elling and performs on three tracks. As Elling and Marsalis worked together on the mix and sequence of songs, Elling realized that they all lined up on various sides of some big, deep questions:

What is this life?
Does meaning have being?
Why is there such suffering and pain?
Where is the wellspring of wisdom?

Says Elling, “I'm trying to sing to the moment. I'm not a protest singer, but there's a lot to protest. I'm not a musician who writes or performs from anger. But there's a lot to be angry about.”

He began experimenting with A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall in November 2016, just after the US election. “I didn't go out of my way to create a dour or defeatist record. I try to include as many antidotes as I was able to come up with. But I didn't want to shy away from calling out the disease as well.

The Bob Dylan thing is a perfect opener, in that it gives the warning. It calls out issues that could easily be ripped from today's headlines. It's an incredible masterpiece of poetry. But then I follow that up with A Happy Thought (a Franz Wright poem set by Elling's collaborator, pianist Stu Mindeman), which is a very calming and encouraging piece.”

He adds that it doesn't seem the time to just sing about love or romance. “It's the time to try to be a citizen and a patriot and to try to do whatever I can to put my shoulder to the wheel on behalf of people of goodwill everywhere. It's a small thing I can do — I'm just a jazz singer — but I want to do whatever I can.

“As a father-of-two, as a citizen of the world and as a patriot I feel very strongly the need to confront as much as I can, in my work, that which is before us. But also to extend a hand of friendship and welcome and camaraderie and comfort to everyone where possible. If at all possible. And to couch it in music with my friends and collaborators on the recording, we're trying to offer something that can help the individual listener.”

The 61st Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held February 10, 2019, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on CBS. Jazz Awards will be announced at the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony shortly before the broadcast.

As always, bountiful and heartfelt congratulations, Kurt!