Kurt Elling in 2011: It was a very good year

It’s been a very good year for Kurt Elling — a very good year indeed!
The Gate, Kurt’s ninth album and the third on the Concord label, debuted in February to great acclaim and was #1 on the JazzWeek Jazz Chart for nine weeks. JazzWeek later declared The Gate its 2011 Record of the Year.

Producer Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Bonnie Raitt) brought his exquisite sensibility, expertise, and great love of music into the studio to help make The Gate a truly outstanding album.

As with all of Kurt’s recordings, The Gate received the Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Jazz Album. The 54th Grammy Awards will be announced on February 12, 2012.

The Gate also won the prestigious 2011 Edison Jazz/World Award for Vocal Jazz. The Edison, considered the Dutch Grammy, is one of the oldest music awards in the world. Only the Grammy is older by one year. Prizes are awarded to artists whose recordings over the last year are considered by the Edison professional jury to be the best achievement in their genre.

For the twelfth year in a row Kurt was named Male Vocalist of the Year in the DownBeat Critics Poll, and he got his sixth win in the DownBeat Readers Poll.

JazzTimes readers also agreed, voting Kurt as the Male Vocalist of the Year in the JazzTimes Readers’ Poll. It was his seventh win.

The Jazz Journalists Association also tapped Kurt as Male Singer of the Year for the seventh time.

In September, the Urban League Club of Chicago inducted Kurt and the Ravinia Festival’s Welz Kauffman as Distinguished Musicians, honoring their contributions to the arts and the community.

Kurt performed in 138 shows in 74 cities in 24 countries in 2011.

Most of those dates were with the Kurt Elling Quintet — Kurt’s long-time collaborator and musical director Laurence Hobgood on piano, Harish Raghavan (January-June) and then Clark Sommers on bass, Ulysses Owens on drums, and featuring Chicago’s own John McLean on guitar.

Kurt also performed with an amazing number of guest artists and musical collaborators during the year:

  • Klüvers Big Band
  • Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
  • Nashville Symphony
  • Richard Galliano
  • John Pizzarelli
  • Ernie Watts
  • Bill Charlap, Ken Peplowski, Jeremy Pelt, & Jimmy Greene
  • Jon Hendricks, Al Jarreau, & the Metropole Orchestra conducted by Vince Mendoza
  • Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, Glen Hansard, Aimee Mann, Wayne Shorter & Cassandra Wilson
  • Welz Kauffman
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chaka Khan, Jane Monheit, Dianne Reeves, Aretha Franklin, & Jennifer Hudson
  • Miguel Zenón
  • Lew Tabackin
  • Ravi Coltrane
  • Robin Eubanks
  • Stefon Harris
  • John Hollenbeck’s the Claudia Quintet +1

In addition to The Gate, Kurt was also featured on two other albums in 2011.

Note of Hope, a celebration of Woody Guthrie, based on the words and writings of the great American master, features Grammy-winning bassist Rob Wasserman’s collaborations with Jackson Browne, Ani DiFranco, Kurt, Michael Franti, Nellie McKay, Tom Morello, Van Dyke Parks, Madeleine Peyroux, Lou Reed, Pete Seeger, Studs Terkel, Tony Trischka, and Chris Whitley. Accompanied by Laurence Hobgood, Rob Wasserman, and Ulysses Owens, Kurt’s funky and inspired version of Guthrie’s “Peace Pin Boogie” on Note of Hope is a tongue-in-cheek look at the rewards of being politically correct.

What Is The Beautiful?, from the Claudia Quintet +1, features Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann on vocals. One hundred years after poet Kenneth Patchen’s birth, composer/drummer John Hollenbeck and The Claudia Quintet +1 celebrate Patchen in this hour-long tribute, which reimagines Patchen’s texts in a unique musical setting.

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And so as another year draws to a close, we welcome another new beginning, full of promise and hope. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “And now let us believe in the new year that is given us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been.”

Kurt promises all new notes in the new year!