Innerview: Kurt Elling

On 07 November at Bosanski kulturni centar within 19th Jazz Fest Sarajevo American vocalist Kurt Elling is going to perform a concert introducing his new album Passion World where he also appears as an author.
All of this artist’s previous 10 releases have earned him a Grammy award nomination, while in years 2000 to 2013 DownBeat magazine has named him best male vocalist 14 times in a row. Innerview for Jazz Fest Sarajevo by Amra Toska.

Innerview: Being an extraordinary vocalist, with many years of immensely productive experience, what do you think is important for a (jazz) singer to be an authentic artist, and at the same time influential in the global music industry and market?

Kurt Elling: I don’t think you can ever insure that you accomplish both. To be an “authentic” artist means to create from the way you truly feel / hear / think of life. This impulse can easily be in opposition to market desires. I have been fortunate in that I have been able to play the music I have wanted to play and that it has found – and continues to find – an audience.

Innerview: Your first record, as well as the ones that followed, were released for the prestigious jazz label Blue Note. Where do you think jazz as a genre stands in the record industry in terms of its (non)-commercial impact?

KE: I guess just about every aspect of the traditional music “industry” is suffering. Of course, there are new opportunities all around us, but a structure to monetize the music – aside from traditional touring – has proven difficult to come by. It is definitely a difficult time for jazz artists and traditional labels.

Innerview: Your education background is in history and philosophy of religion but you have dedicated your professional career to music. Where do you believe, beside in practical appliance of religious services, music meets with religion, or more precisely spirituality?

KE: I suppose it depends on the urges and needs of the artist(s) and of the listener(s). Individual people bring different ideas and values to the table at every performance occasion. I just hope people have a good and satisfying experience at my shows.

Innerview: Your newest record is dedicated to love and its universality that spans over time and space, being rooted in every human being. What is the music of love?

KE: Play the record, I guess…

Innerview: Citing that Passion World is only the beginning of your voyages through the world of love in music, and music in love, where will you 'travel' next?

KE: I have not yet recorded music from Africa, from the Middle East or from the East. I have several more stops to make in South America. That's a lot of music!

Innerview: Last time you visited Sarajevo in 2009, you were accompanied by your long-time collaborator Laurence Hobgood, with whom you worked until 2013. What are the (dis)-advantages of long term artistic relationships, and what is fundamental for the singer when it comes to his/her musical support?

KE: When one collaboration is in play it stands to reason that there may not be room for more than one. Doors may stay unopened. Of course, one opens door after door with one collaborator – and that can be quite satisfying and productive. But the doors will be different than those other collaborations would open. Some singers need musical or historical information to inform their vision. Some need a chart-writer. Some, the imprimatur of integrity. Others, merely a duet partner. Each case is different. I have been very fortunate to have had one long run of friendship and creative partnership. Now I have the opportunity to open other doors that have stayed closed to me for too long.