Kurt Elling’s magic carpet

The Malta Jazz Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer and a plethora of renowned local and foreign artists are taking to the stage to make this year's edition one of the most memorable yet.
Among those artists is Kurt Elling, an American jazz vocalist, composer, lyricist and vocalese performer.

He is renowned for his rich baritone voice that spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth.

His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which provide springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word and poetry.

As a result of all this, Elling has been nominated for no less than 11 Grammy awards since he started recording in 1995.

He has won numerous accolades, including the gong for Best Jazz Vocal Album at the 2009 Grammys and the Jazz Journalist Association Male Singer of the Year award eight times. In 2013 he was also named Jazz Artist of the Year by the UK's Jazz FM Awards.

And praise for the singer hasn't stopped there. The New York Times has called Elling the “standout male vocalist of our time”, while the Washington Post declared that he has “come to embody the creative spirit in jazz”.

And now, he will be bringing that unique talent to the Malta Jazz Festival.

That said, this won't be his first performance on the island. Elling is fond of Malta and looking forward to returning.

“I performed in Malta on my very first European tour years ago and have very strong memories of my time there,” he says. “Malta is a tremendously important location, historically speaking and I was happy then to immerse myself in that history for a few days.

“This year, I get to show something of Malta to my nine-year-old daughter, who is coming along on this tour. That will be very exciting too,” he says.

This time round, Elling will be presenting songs from his latest recording, Passion World, which was commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Centre.

This work is the culmination of nearly five years of collecting and honing songs – and in some cases writing new lyrics – that express love, romance and heartbreak around the world.

Elling has already toured extensively with Passion World, starting in New York on June 10 before moving on to other parts of the US, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, France and Germany.

After Malta, he will continue touring and highlights will include a special performance as part of Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday celebrations in Hollywood on July 22.

“Throughout my travels, I have observed how deeply felt passions are shaped in countless ways by each unique culture,” he says.

“Those insights guided the creation of Passion World. Most of the songs I will perform in Malta are from this latest recording and I am looking forward to sharing it.”

The result is a tour-de-force project that is vibrant with diversity and which celebrates all that Elling feels makes us human.

The artist is renowned for his concert style, which he uses to tell rich stories about the history and context of each of his songs. Altogether this makes for a very engaging concert experience.

“I want to sweep my audiences away on a grand tour of exotic places, cultures and times,” he says. “I like to think of this album as a musical magic carpet, taking those listening on a fascinating journey through the realms of romance.”

Elling stresses that he is a singer by vocation, so any opportunity to engage singing energy is welcomed by him.

“I love connecting with audiences in that energy of joy. As with all my performances, I plan to give the folks in Malta who have anticipated hearing me some of the things they have been hoping for.

“That said, I want people to be surprised, to be moved, to laugh, to remember something important they may have forgotten. I want them to have what they need,” he says.

“And what could be better than a little surprise and lots of passion in the stunning surroundings of the Grand Harbour?”

The Malta Jazz Festival runs between July 16 and 19 at Ta' Liesse, Valletta. Kurt Elling will be performing on July 16.