Kurt Elling on the 2012 Jazz Cruise

From January 29 to February 5, 2012, Kurt Elling joined with a stellar cast of 44 artists/groups playing all jazz all the time on The Jazz Cruise.
They sailed from Fort Lauderdale, FL, with stops in Aruba, Curaçao, and Half Moon Cay, and back to Florida. It was Kurt’s first Jazz Cruise, and he and the Quintet had a fabulous time.

Kurt performed half a dozen shows during the Cruise.

Lee Mergner, Editor-in-Chief of JazzTimes, shared his impressions of the Jazz Cruise and Kurt’s performances:

Ask any cruise-goer for their musical highlight and you’re likely to hear widely divergent choices. Jazz is, after all, a short word for a lot of different music and styles. For this somewhat jaded listener, the favorites tended to be artists or performances I had never seen before, and there were a surprisingly large number of those. I guess I need to get out more, or at least widen my choices.

Kurt Elling was an artist whom I have seen many times over the years, but seeing him perform a half-dozen very different sets (he tried to not repeat any songs all week) with his working band of Laurence Hobgood, Clark Sommers, Kobie Watkins and John McLean gave me even more regard for his considerable singing and performing talents, and more appreciation for his excellent band.

Elling did songs from every era of his now 17-year career and didn’t hesitate to mix up the arrangements and repertoire, letting the air or tempo out of some tunes and speeding others up to a breakneck pace. His command of the stage and spontaneous repartee with the not-the-least-bit-shy audience showed the value of all of those years. He even riffed his way through a few onstage soundchecks. A truly modernist jazz singer, described by JT’s Nate Chinen as ‘the most influential jazz vocalist of our time,’ Elling won over the traditionalists in the crowd.

JazzTimes also videotaped a series of interviews with artists on the Jazz Cruise.

Kurt’s interviews are in Kurt Elling: Straight Ahead, by Lee Mergner, who wrote: “Earlier this year, Elling made his first appearance on The Jazz Cruise, where he performed multiple sets with his working group of Laurence Hobgood, John McLean, Clark Sommers and Kobie Watkins, rarely even repeating a song. A hit among the cruise regulars, he also sat in with Ann Hampton-Callaway and other artists and sang with the All-Star big band.”

Watch: Kurt Elling on The Jazz Cruise (03:00)

Watch: Kurt Elling on his early musical development as a jazz singer (04:25)

Watch: Kurt Elling on his future projects (03:27)

In his own set of interview segments for In Person with JazzTimes, Laurence Hobgood spoke about his early development as a pianist, his teachers and mentors, his reliance on a spirit of collaboration, his work with Kurt Elling and Robert Pinsky, and his impressions of the Jazz Cruise.