Man In The Air

Blue Note Records | 2003

For his sixth Blue Note record, Man In The Air, Elling wrote and performed lyrics for nine jazz classics. Writers diverse as Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Bobby Watson, and Joe Zawinul all received an Elling treatment. The album featured an epic seven-minute vocalese of “Resolution,” the second movement on John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” Biographer Lara Perigrinelli wrote, “The success of these pieces tends to hinge on vocal control, sonic atmosphere, and use of space. Their lyrics follow suit. Elling wrestles with themes of love, life, loss, and the indefatigable human spirit in all of their complexities without allowing himself to indulge in clichés or platitudes.” Then, having fulfilled his contractual obligation to Blue Note, Elling joined the Concord Music Group.

Track Listing

  • Music by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays
    Lyric by Kurt Elling
    Originally titled “Minuano (Six Eight)” from Metheny’s 1987 recording Still Life (Talking)

    Day comes slowly – absorbing the darknesses softly.
    Night leaves gently – her beauty is spent, and she rises.
    I step into the lightness – I hear you.
    You’re calling me out of my sadness.
    Your flowering wonders are calling me home.

    Darkness lingers – but always surrenders to loving.
    Darkest midnight – is swallowed in oceans of laughter.
    I follow into lightness – I hear you.
    You’re calling me out of my sadness.
    Your flowering wonders are calling me home.

    Dancing along a dawn that leads to you –
    Singing a song that blossoms in a fugue as morning settles on
    Dreaming into a sky of brilliant blue –
    Noticing clouds are whispering that you will dance with me very soon

    Already been as high as Kathmandu –
    `Willing to go as far as Timbuktu
    Nowhere’s too far away – I may catch up with you today –
    maybe today will finally be the day

    Flying along a dawn that leads to you –
    Singing a song that makes itself anew – a music magic wand
    Reaching into a sky of brilliant blue –
    eagles are calling out to say the you will dance me very soon

    Already been as high as Kathmandu –
    Willing to go as far a Timbuktu
    Nowhere’s too far away – I may catch up with you today –
    maybe today we’ll make our getaway!
    Like light from the stars made ten thousand years ago – comes love, like a gift of sight
    Growing stronger every moment on the way home.

  • Music by William Eaton
    Lyric by Kurt Elling and Phil Galdston
    Originally titled “Winelight” from Grover Washington Jr’s 1980 recording Winelight

    In the winelight – livin’ lovin’s soft delights.
    Smooth and mellow – feelin’ how we move so right.
    We’re lettin’ the time go – & takin’ it nice and slow.

    In the winelight – lazyin’ through this all night flight.
    Higher and higher, baby – touchin’ you with second sight.
    We’re over the rainbow – it’s time to let it flow.

    Baby, you’re my lover – no other I’d ask to stay.
    And make a hideaway with me – dreaming in burgundy

    Lookin’ out the window at the universe’s starry array – we can say:
    “Everything’s ok, you see” – as long as you’re here with me.

    We can leave the world or make it go.
    We can lose it in the undertow.
    If you say it’s true, then we can push it away.
    As long as you stay.
    Whatever you say.
    Please, baby, just stay.

    And let this winelight – color every look tonight.
    Feel the love grow – & let our spirits reunite.
    We never will let go – until we overflow.

  • Music/Solo by John Coltrane
    Vocalese lyric by Kurt Elling based on John Coltrane’s improvised melody on his 1965 recording A Love Supreme

    God – king above all other gods – lead us now, so we can walk wherein the prophets said that we would trod.

    Buddha – tell a sutra like a spell – teach us well to answer silence with the calling of bells.

    Allah – bring us to a good alarm – subjugate our wills to answer you like a mighty arm.

    Elohim is a pillar of light in the dark and leading all his people to light
    (for He’s the king of the fire).
    He brings the fire into everything that’s living on earth, in the sun, in the stars.
    Take a spark of it / deep within you / put it to the test / it will do the rest / I confess
    It will be like climbing up Mount Everest / I can’t express the view from there /
    but it’s for you to follow through.

    Lama – show the Power’s bright array – bless the climb, and settle peace upon the universe’s dark display.

    And Jesus – remember every promise made. Present yourself in the middle of the prayers that we say.

    Vishnu – preserve us all along the way. Keep us clear of the final thunderbolt of the judgement day.

    Hear me. Hear what I / what I ask for today / Fathers.

    Way off at the far leftern shelf of the world – up in a house right on the edge of everything
    Where the time is tumbling in a vortex / the nexus of timetable tides / in the final
    Lighthouse at shining earth’s ending / at the spinning of the finishing of sweeping time
    Driving silence like a stampeding careening wash in charging advance / digging the sound
    Of passing everything away into the secret of eternity’s pivot dance / breaking down crashing doorways
    Bashing through dream place / smash, unlash, efface /
    Everything goes to the open mouth of Kali-ma / where the vault of heaven opens

    A witness as lonely as forgotten tears keeps up a vigil watching all – even light – go out.
    One witness / one child digging the slaving wheel of meat spitting out – taking up
    Everything / by the roots / pulling out the lot of what has passed into the past, like a dream.
    She knows what is gone – gone over – everyone that is done and unbegun and starting
    From the super-microcosmic no bug all the way to super-huge galactic suns. And she knows
    The beginning is coming in the sweep at the end of all. Even gods have passed over, away.

    Then one day the shadow of a priest on the horizon appeared.
    He wasn’t taken up into the swirling.
    He walked with purpose all the while digging his heels into the bedrock like a man.

    But as he came into view the witness saw his eyes were crying.
    Tears like blood fell to earth / as he watched heaven disappear in the void – up the drain
    into the paraboloid / realizing it all / everything / everywhere / into his eyes / seeing that all /
    he had beloved went out of itself and away / here in this last ever surge of a day
    tearing all meaning away. And to the witness’s indifference he had this to say:

    “I know about birth. I know about death, and how the light goes out of men –
    the life departing – powerless giving it up. But in the vast indifference
    I invent a deeper meaning:

    “I’m the one who will say, use the will every day or go mad trying. Go to war against the
    impotent side of living.

    “Use every power you’re given to stand and act like a man.

    “And pray every day to every god. Strike the bowl of heaven and the ringing will become a law.

    “Build bridges where you need to go. Bring the fire of enlightenment here to life below.

    “Speak mercy to the things you meet. Listen up to hear the whispering of the blood you bleed.

    “Stay awake – no mistake – dance the dream awake. And awake.”

  • Music by J. Zawinul
    Solo by Wayne Shorter
    Vocalese lyric by Kurt Elling based on Wayne Shorter’s “A Remark You Made” from the 1977 recording Heavy Weather

    Something in the air was stinging –
    the day you came to meet me in Curie Park.

    You came to tell me the sky was so blue.

    That it was big and round – and it was calling to you.

    You never knew a sky as blue as this could be – be so frightening.

    And I knew it then – you would fly.

    Light played upon your face – like lace –
    it was time to kiss and say goodbye.

    Our hearts would break – be folded in the ache of an early autumn.

    Birds would alight from flight – singing, to light the opening skies of life
    and make a sound like lovers crying.

    And when you kissed me, you let a single tear
    say the very thing you knew I couldn’t hear:

    The truest love resigns itself to everything.

    No matter how life pulls it apart, love makes another start again

    Now when I think of that broken-hearted fall –
    I’d give my all to have that moment to speak again

    to thank you for chasing a bluer sky – and to kiss again – and say goodbye.

    Moments live in forever once they live. So we can give away our forever day.

    And it’s no regret to say, “That was yesterday”
    when we give away our forever day.

    Time to say “goodbye” – and find what time can bring to love.

    It’s time for me to try – to see what life is really of.

    It’s time to say “goodbye”.

  • The Uncertainty Of The Poet
  • The More I Have You
  • Music by Laurence Hobgood
    Lyric by Kurt Elling

    Reclining in a chair at the edge of otherwhere
    Maybe madness – and maybe understand-ness
    & full of wise

    The man up in the air keeps a very steady stare
    He can see you – can see right through you
    With inner eyes
    The Man up in the air!

    And you’d never know it – as he floats in the air
    He’s passing through stars!
    The man is poet – imagine a mountain
    A fountain of free-flowing mind

    Man up the air! He can fly off anywhere

    The man up in the air – has a vision of everywhere
    Recollected – and finally connected
    And harmonized

  • Music by Herbie Hancock
    Lyric by Kurt Elling
    Originally titled “Alone And I” from the 1962 recording Takin’ Off

    Alone and I can see the moonlight and starlight
    as they plant kisses on my dreams and thoughts
    In moments passing by me

    — and the sound of laughing voices as they call me so softly,
    “come a little closer, Darling – won’t you? – and love me a little while.”

    And, if it seems your whole life is spent blooming, it’s a miracle.
    but it could happen.

    I used to think death was just an ending, not a starting up.
    But then a friend of mine, a man,
    he up and died one Tuesday.

    Now he lives inside of me and all his other friends.
    And we welcome him into ourselves in a way that makes us more like him.
    It’s friendly gravity we’re pulling on.

    And the white moon told me it was so.

    Alone and I will love the moonlight a little more these days.

  • Music by Courtney Pine
    Lyric by Kurt Elling
    Originally titled “Invisible (Higher Vibe)” from the 1997 recording Underground

    Higher vibe – live in me

    Higher vibe – set me free

    Meditating on higher truth – is creating a living proof

    (in a peaceful way)

    Everything you do

    Everywhere you go

    Everyone you know

    Is alive and loved and shining in the mind of God

  • Music/Solo by Bobby Watson
    Lyric by Kurt Elling
    Originally titled “Jewel” from the 1983 recording Beatitudes

    There’s more to love than loving
    there’s more to pain than pain
    And if diamonds take a million years
    we must learn to overcome the same strain

    Wanting what’s new means one thing:
    asking what’s old to die
    And what’s true before we move to grow
    passes over in a moment of sighing

    I knew a girl – she refused to come out fighting
    She could have moved the planets with her hand like
    counting grains of sand.
    Dig her daily shuffle on down the street on slovenly feet
    Dig the love within her waiting,
    with an undiscovered purpose.

    You couldn’t help but think about her as a missing person – someone important had caused her heart to fear
    So she withered, like a raisin in the sun – needing will, needing vision, needing hope and not doubt
    Needing shelter from a loveless existence

    She’d mustered all her little courage just to face the day –
    it was rainy and gray
    And we all could see her, trying to free her

    Looking out to find the person who had taken innocence and blessedness and carried them away — who’d given all of it away to those who couldn’t see her beauty.

    And Prince Charming never came.

    And, if he had, shed have spit into his eye &
    left him wondering why anyway.
    Charming princes never carry half as much as they can carry off.
    I see it every day.

    Pretty soon she drove us all away –
    for her there could be no other way.

  • Never My Love
  • Music by Bob Mintzer
    Lyric by Kurt Elling

    Meet me in a shadow land of quiet.
    Speak to me of loving. But speak low to me – in a whisper.
    Whispers open magical doors if you let them –
    Opening to hidden rooms full of color –
    In shades like Marc Chagall.

    These days, everybody speaks of love so loud.
    They shout, as if love were something owed them –
    Like something they can order around –
    Like something that comes when called.

    Let your body fall away in quiet,
    Knowing loving grows over time, like a tree in the forest.
    Your face is as lovely as sleep – faint with stillness.
    I can smell the summer there in your tangled hair.
    It folds me in a dream.

    The reverie of silence – here in the hidden constellation –
    Joining the twilight sky, like starry bright –
    We’re soaring over everything, like birds in flight,
    Into the quiet night.

    We’re allowed (aloud)
    for all is quiet now


Kurt Elling: Vocals
Laurence Hobgood: Piano & Rhodes Electric Piano
Rob Amster: Bass
Frank Parker, Jr.: Drums & Percussion
Stefon Harris: Vibes
Jim Gailloreto: Soprano Saxophone
Paul Wertico: Drums (1)
Brad Wheeler: Soprano Saxophone ()