Kurt Elling ’89 Wins Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album

Long recognized as one of the top jazz vocalists of our time, Elling won his second Grammy Award for his album Secrets are the Best Stories.

Gustavus Adolphus College alumnus Kurt Elling ’89 won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album at the 63rd annual ceremony held virtually from the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021. This is the second Grammy Award for Elling, who has been nominated 13 times for his jazz artistry and musicianship.

The winning album, Secrets Are the Best Stories, features pianist Danilo Pérez. “With this album, I was trying to address things that leave a bit to be revealed,” Elling said in a recent interview with The Gustavus Quarterly that will hit mailboxes next week. “When you get a raw diamond, it doesn’t have any shine on it—it’s just a rock. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll toss it away. You’ve got to chip away at that stone with precision, polish it, put it in a setting. That’s a secret that ends up telling a beautiful story.”

Elling majored in history and minored in religion at Gustavus, sang in the Gustavus Choir and Chamber Singers, and went on to divinity school after graduation before leaving to pursue music full-time. Described by The New York Times as “the standout male vocalist of our time,” Elling has won numerous Male Singer of the Year Awards from the Jazz Journalists Association and won an incredible 14-straight DownBeat Critics Polls from 2000-2013.

According to the Washington Post, “Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling. With his soaring vocal flights, his edgy lyrics and sense of being on a musical mission, he has come to embody the creative spirit in jazz.”

Elling continues to support his alma mater and most recently performed at the 2019 A Royal Affair gala fundraiser benefiting the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library and scholarships for first-generation Gustavus students. Learn more about Elling’s work at his website or in the upcoming issue of The Gustavus Quarterly, where he’s profiled alongside Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson ’58 and Frank Capra Achievement Award-winner filmmaker Cheryl Downey ’66.