Kurt Elling gives voice to Kenneth Patchen’s poetry on “What Is The Beautiful?”

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On October 11, Cuneiform Records released What Is The Beautiful? by The Claudia Quintet +1 with special guests vocalists Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann.

“Soon it will/Be showtime again,” recites Kurt Elling at the outset of The Claudia Quintet’s sixth CD, What Is The Beautiful? “Somebody will paint beautiful faces all over the sky.”

Bandleader/percussionist John Hollenbeck’s evocative, richly luminescent compositions definitely possess the suggestive power to encourage listeners to look heavenward, searching for those faces in the sky.

Hollenbeck immediately thought of Kurt Elling to give voice to these poems — wholly unaware that Elling is something of a Patchen aficionado. “Kurt is a scholar with this stuff,” Hollenbeck says. “He knew Patchen and knew exactly what to do. He’s amazing.”

On his own recordings, Patchen recites his work in a gruff monotone; Elling, on the other hand, inhabits these poems as an actor would a role. On “Showtime,” he welcomes listeners with the bold enunciation of a television emcee. He lurches through “Opening the Window” with an intoxicated stagger, and he recounts the menacing absurdities of the surreal “Job” with dueling voices: his own and a blue-collar Chicago accent, transforming the piece into a duet of narrator and character.

Listen to Kurt’s performance of “Job”, renamed from Patchen’s poem, “In Order To” (perfect for these times of high unemployment). And order your copy of What Is The Beautiful? today.

Soon It Will

Be showtime again. Somebody will paint beautiful faces all over the sky.
Somebody will start bombarding us with really wonderful letters . . .
letters full of truth, and gentleness, and humility . . .
Soon (it says here) . . .