Examiner Exclusive: Kurt Elling to emcee at upcoming GRAMMYs

By Neil Tesser, Chicago Jazz Music Examiner, January 25, 2010
This just in: jazz vocal star Kurt Elling will be a winner this Sunday at the 52nd annual GRAMMY® Awards.

The Chicago-bred Elling’s is nominated for Dedicated To You (Concord), a highly romantic set of standards immortalized by saxophonist John Coltrane and vocalist Johnny Hartman. It’s the most accessible album, and also the most widely praised, in his discography, and it offers his best chance yet to take home the little gold Gramophone on January 31.

But whether or not he gets the award, that day is shaping up as a triumph for Elling nonetheless. Last week we got news that he’ll perform a duet with Lalah Hathaway — daughter of Chicago’s own soul-music legend Donny Hathaway — during the pre-telecast ceremonies.

Now comes word that Elling will also co-host the entire pre-tel program, giving the mostly non-jazz crowd at Staples Center a taste of his winning onstage persona and hip comedic sense. The announcement will be made in a GRAMMY press release first thing Monday morning.

The Chicago-bred Elling has made eight albums, and every one of them has garnered at least one GRAMMY nomination, although he’s yet to win the statue (making him the Peter O’Toole of jazz singers).

The pre-telecast GRAMMY ceremony actually accounts for the vast majority of the awards presented each year: only about a dozen awards of the 108 category winners are announced during the 3.5-hour GRAMMY telecast on CBS-TV, with the remaining (90-plus) winners presented several hours earlier. The pre-tel event has been significantly upgraded in recent years, from a rushed cattle call to a relaxed and classy ceremony featuring a live band, several performances, and guest presenters.

And this year, the always engaging and often comedic stylings of Kurt Elling.

The entire pre-tel event streams live Sunday, January 31, starting at 3 PM in Chicago. The CBS network telecast of the 52nd GRAMMY Awards begins at 7.