2021 GRAMMY Nomination for Secrets Are The Best Stories!

On November 24 when the 63rd annual Grammy nominations were announced, Kurt Elling was honored with the Grammy nomination in the Best Jazz Vocal category for Secrets Are The Best Stories, featuring renowned pianist and Grammy winner Danilo Pérez, on Edition Records. This is Kurt’s fifteenth 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.

Secrets Are The Best Stories cover

Secrets Are The Best Stories translates an artistic vision of history, mystery, and storytelling into a musical message both singular and deep. 

Elling adds evocative new lyrics to compositions by greats like Pérez’s iconic collaborator Wayne Shorter, late fusion bass genius Jaco Pastorius, and visionary composer/arranger Vince Mendoza, and to pieces from Pérez’s own catalog.

Along with his own compelling narratives, Elling adapts the works of contemporary poets Franz Wright and Robert Bly, the 19th-century abolitionist poet Frances E.W. Harper and Nobel-winning author Toni Morrison.

Kurt’s previous album The Questions, released in 2018, explored important messages about social and political issues. The Questions was undoubtedly a learning experience from which he never expected to find definitive answers. And yet some things have become clearer to him. Elling’s continued search for what is hidden and what is unearthed is reflected in the title, Secrets Are The Best Stories – an insight gleaned from one of his daughter’s childhood friends, whose naïve wisdom recognized the deeper beauty in games of hide-and-seek. With Secrets Are The Best Stories, Kurt has further developed his protest voice to communicate his impassioned artistic reaction to the vital issues of our time: human rights, immigration, and climate change. On this album, he demonstrates the artist’s ability to respond, which he does with command and virtuosity, and integrity.

“The Questions asked, ‘How did we get in this mess? What are we going to do about it?’ Sometimes we trip over the answers or live into them over time. Sometimes we have to work very hard to see the possibility hidden right in front of us; the shining diamond must be romanced over time and drawn out from what looks like a plain block of molten frost. And then again, sometimes the answer is perfectly obvious: ‘be kind.’ But the news cycle has continued apace, confronting us with an ever darker labyrinth. How shall we survive? Danilo and I share many of the same concerns and anxieties about where the world is today. This is our cri de coeur.”

To help them amplify this musical outcry, Elling and Pérez gathered together a remarkable ensemble. The core of the band is formed by the singer’s longtime bassist Clark Sommers, in-demand drummer Johnathan Blake, and Brazilian percussion master Rogerio Boccato. They’re joined by a retinue of stellar special guests, including alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, guitarist Chico Pinheiro, and Román Díaz, a revered elder statesman of Cuban percussion.

Perhaps the greatest mystery revealed by this recording is the secret of beauty itself: beauty with a purpose. With this gorgeous new album, Elling makes no secret of the empathy that he feels for – and hopes to find in – his fellow citizens of the world. “I start from the heart,” Elling says of his songwriting process. “And my heart goes to compassion.”

The 63st Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held January 31, 2021 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!