About Kurt

Renowned for his singular combination of robust swing and poetic insight, two-time GRAMMY winner Kurt Elling has secured his place among the world’s foremost jazz vocalists. The New York Times proclaimed Elling, “the standout male vocalist of our time”. Over a twenty-five year career of touring and recording, Elling has won three Prix du Jazz Vocal (France), two German Echo Awards, two Dutch Edison Awards, and has been nominated for a GRAMMY award sixteen times. He has had a 14-year run atop the DownBeat Critics and Readers polls, and has won twelve Jazz Journalists Awards for “Male Vocalist of the Year”.

Kurt Elling’s voice is instantly recognizable, embracing listeners with his warm, rich baritone and navigating the full span of his four-octave range as a virtuoso improvisor and a compelling storyteller. The Guardian (UK) has named Kurt Elling, “a kind of Sinatra with superpowers,” and, “one of jazz’s all-time great vocalists.”

Elling has recorded and toured with Branford Marsalis, Danilo Perez, Stefon Harris, Fred Hersch, James Morrison, and Charlie Hunter. He has performed extensively with larger ensembles like The Clayton/Hamilton Orchestra, The National Youth Orchestra (led by Sean Jones), The Bob Mintzer Big Band, The BBC Concert Symphony (led by Guy Barker) The Metropole Orchestra (Holland), The Irish Radio and Television Orchestra (led by Brian Byrne), The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, and The WDR Orchestra and Big Band (Germany).

The Wall Street Journal said, “Elling combines authenticity with stunning originality.” The Washington Post declared that, “since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling.” 

Elling’s dynamism is enhanced exponentially by the fact that he consistently generates new vocal material by writing and recording signature and definitive lyrics to the compositions of foundational jazz composers like  John Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, and Joe Zawinul. Additionally, Kurt Elling has co-created multi-disciplinary performances for Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater and The City of Chicago. Jazz At Lincoln Center saw the world premier of The Big Blind, an entirely new jazz musical-in-progress Elling is co-writing with collaborator Phil Galdston (“Save The Best For Last”). National Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky declared that, “In Kurt Elling’s art, the voice of jazz gives new spiritual presence to the ancient, sweet and powerful bond between poetry and music.” 

Elling has toured the world in a variety of contexts, including UNESCO-sponsored “International Jazz Day” performances in Havana, Cuba, in St. Petersburg, Russia, in Melbourne, Australia and in Washington DC. He has twice performed at the White House, including a performance in collaboration with the late Marvin Hamlisch and the National Symphony Orchestra for President Obama’s first State Dinner. He has served as Artist-In-Residence at the Monterey and Singapore Jazz Festivals. As a music industry leader, Elling spent six years serving as a Trustee and two years as Vice Chairman of The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.    

Selected Awards

Grammy Awards:

  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: Secrets Are The Best Stories, featuring Danilo Pérez

Grammy Nominations:

  • Best Alternative Jazz Album: SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: SuperBlue featuring Charlie Hunter
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: Secrets Are The Best Stories, featuring Danilo Pérez
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: The Questions
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: Upward Spiral, The Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: 1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: The Gate
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: Dedicated To You
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: Nightmoves
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: Man In The Air
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: Flirting With Twilight
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: Live In Chicago
  • Best Jazz Vocal Performance: This Time It’s Love
  • Best Jazz Vocal Performance: The Messenger
  • Best Jazz Vocal Performance: Close Your Eyes
  • Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist: “Easy Living” from Flirting With Twilight
    (Arrangement by Kurt Elling and Laurence Hobgood)


  • Critics Poll: Male Vocalist of the Year – 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023
  • Critics Poll: Talent Deserving Wider Recognition – 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
  • Readers Poll: Male Vocalist of the Year – 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2018, 2019, 2020 (tie), 2021, 2022


  • Extended Critics’ Poll: Male Vocalist of the Year – 2018
  • Readers’ Poll: Male Vocalist of the Year – 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2018
  • Readers’ Poll: Best New Release – 2012: 1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project

Jazz Journalists Association:

  • Male Singer of the Year – 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2018, 2019, 2020


  • Record of the Year: The Gate – 2011
  • Vocalist of the Year – 2006

Edison Jazz/World, The Netherlands:

  • Jazz Vocal International: Kurt Elling featuring Danilo Perez Secrets Are The Best Stories – 2021
  • Edison Jazz Oeuvreprijs (Lifetime Achievement Award) – 2014
  • Jazz Vocal: Kurt Elling, The Gate – 2011

ECHO Jazz Prize, Germany:

  • International Ensemble of the Year: Branford Marsalis Quartet with special guest Kurt Elling, Upward Spiral – 2017
  • International Male Singer of the Year: Kurt Elling, The Gate – 2012

Jazz FM Awards:

  • International Jazz Artist of the Year – 2013

Académie du Jazz de Paris:

  • Prix du Jazz Vocal: The Questions – 2018
  • Prix Billie Holiday: Man In The Air – 2003
  • Prix Billie Holiday: The Messenger – 1997

Blue Note Milano:

  • Award of the Year – 2013

Scottish Jazz Awards:

  • International category – 2012

LOTOS Jazz Festival, Poland:

  • Aniol Jazzowy/Jazz Angel Artistic Prize – 2018

Silesian Jazz Festival, Poland:

  • Jazz Ambassador – 2012