Jazz giant Kurt Elling comes to the Living Arts Centre

Kurt Elling first topped the Downbeat Magazine jazz critics' poll as male vocalist of the year in 2000.
Since then, he's won it a dozen times.

He's also topped the Downbeat Readers Poll seven times and picked up 10 Grammy nominations — winning once, in 2009, for best vocal jazz album (Dedicated To You).

He is regularly described as the pre-eminent male jazz singer in the world.

But Mississauga jazz fans don't have to travel the world to see him. Elling will perform Friday night at 8 p.m. at the Living Arts Centre.

The station's CEO, and the unofficial voice of broadcast jazz in Canada — Ross Porter — says Elling's reign at the top of the prestigious Downbeat poll is a product of several distinctive, lasting qualities.

“I think you have to be musically interesting, perform at a high calibre and be perceived as a potential influencer in the genre,” Porter said in an e-mail to The News.

Elling, a Chicago native, is especially adept at providing jazz twists to other genres of music, including Motown and Tin Pan Alley popular music.

His latest album, 1619 Broadway, references the address of the Brill Building in Manhattan where many of the songs on the album were written. That includes Carole King's So Far Away and Pleasant Valley Sunday (made famous by the Monkees), Sam Cooke's You Send Me and On Broadway by the Coasters, which was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Porter says Elling's ability to take popular music and give it a jazz persona is part of a long tradition in the genre.

“I believe one of the purposes of music is to reflect the time it comes from and to show the influence of the music the artist grew up listening to,” says Porter. “And if you are truly good at it, you expand the definition of the jazz repertoire by bringing new material into the fold.”

Ron Lenyk, CEO of the LAC, is “thrilled” that the venue was able to land the accomplished singer.

“This gives the people who are real jazz fans the chance to see Kurt Elling at his best,” said Lenyk who adds that “our acoustics are often rated as good as Carnegie Hall by the artists who play here.”

LAC hasn't signed a lot of big-name jazz artists over the years, in part because they don't generally sell well here.

“I don't know what it is about Mississauga but the finer the art or culture, the tougher it is to sell,” said Lenyk, noting that recent shows featuring pop artists America and Air Supply sold out quickly.

The rare opportunity to see Elling in Mississauga comes just a little more than a month after he was named International Jazz Artist of the Year at the inaugural Jazz FM awards ceremony in London, England.