Kurt Elling Goes Global, Literally And Figuratively, With New CD

Jazz vocalist luminary Kurt Elling this week releases his new CD, “Passion World,” and embarks on a world tour for it at Birdland, the jazz club in New York.
The CD, from Concord Jazz, is five years in the making, springing from a concert Elling gave at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2010.

Unlike his other albums, in “Passion World” Elling sings in many different languages, including French (Edith Piaf's “La Vie En Rose) and Portuguese (Brazilian Dorival Caymmi's “Você Já Foi à Bahia?”). He also performs Björk's “Who Is It,” a song rooted in Iceland.

In addition to his regular quintet, Elling also works on the album with guest collaborators, including Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval; German trumpeter Till Brönner; French accordion virtuoso Richard Galliano; the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra; and the WDR Big Band and Orchestra from Germany.

Although, true to the CD's title, many of its songs are about romantic love, some deal with political issues, including U2's “Where the Streets Have No Name,” about lives lost in war and politics, and “Bonita Cuba,” a composition by California-based Sandoval about friends in Cuba he hasn't seen in decades.

Elling said the new CD might surprise those who narrowly define jazz: It doesn't contain any scatting, something he is famous for. Jazz – as performed in the CD – is “much more flexible and all-encompassing,” he said.

Elling, who will do two shows nightly at Birdland from June 10 through 13, will perform songs from the new CD in New Haven, Conn., June 20 (a free concert with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra); Minneapolis (June 22); Toronto (June 23); Ann Arbor, Mich. (June 24); at various venues in Europe in July; in Chicago August 12, at a free concert at the Grant Park Music Festival; and again in Europe in November.