Secrets Are The Best Stories


Edition Records | 2020

Track Listing

  • Think that / or imagine you are just / just gliding

    The hawk flies / in clear skies / mirroring fire / floating higher

    higher than any spire

    unconcerned or aware / of empty / forgotten prayers

    He’s one with the air

    His golden skull / all full of null / and void

    except for the will of God

    and not with crazed incessant sounds

    the noisy echoes that pull us to what makes us ill

    Why do we go / after what drives us mad / you know?

    We push and elbow / grabbing what makes us sad / like every ego fad

    Quiet the mind / find your flow aligned / or stay blind

    Nothing comes of

    Making the same / blunder a thousand times / that’s just inane and lame

    And how to go sane / reading between the lines

    when all the lines are your chains?

    It isn’t easy

    You’ll have to show some spine / some spirit

    Move from within / Bust out of what confines


    Music and solo by Jaco Pastorius
    Lyric by Kurt Elling (2019)

  • There’s a mystery / an enigma / there’s a memory oh so slight

    There’s a message / in the mirror / that will flicker to a spark / of light

    Turn the dark in to sight

    Questions about love are as old as / everything that’s ever been

    Questions linger on until the end

    There’s a ribbon / in the river / that is running through your heart

    There’s a whisper / in the water / with a wisdom to impart:

    Restart …

    Be your own / work of art

    Questions about life are as old as / everything that’s ever been

    Questions linger on until the end

    We are the face in the mirror / and the mirror

    We are tasting forever / every moment

    We are stars in the night / and we are the night

    There’s a ribbon / in the river / that is running through your heart

    There’s a whisper / in the water / with a wisdom to impart:

    Restart …

    Be your own / work of art

    Music and solo by Jaco Pastorius
    Lyric by Kurt Elling (2019)

  • There was a man on the second floor
    He’d always retreat behind his door
    whenever I’d come off a tour

    From what I gathered he’d never leave the floor
    I’d hold my breath when I’d hear his sneak-ering pause at the door

    Creaking the floor
    hiding, for sure

    Once came a fiery flame / and the fireman came
    Hurrying staircases / dropping floods up / up above me

    Making a vertical sea

    We ran around saving what could / until the fireman said that we should

    Get out of doors and stay for good / like we knew we should

    They brought the man from the second floor / He was carried out by police and more

    Pitching forward / running out of air / down the stair / into glaring lights

    Looking unaware of the night

    They set him down and he sat by me

    For once in time began speaking free / pointing out a flaming tree

    Just two refugees / looking at the spectacle sight / and crying

    That was when he said something to the air

    “I saw a burning like this before / The fire there / it was war, for sure

    Screaming into the air / Soldiers on the stair / I could only stare / I couldn’t endure”

    Looking at the man / he was pretty old

    And I began to fear he was shuddering from the cold

    But what he said sent an icy hold & told me what his unconsoled / beholding eyes knew:

    “I lost my family in ’42. The reason I would hide from your view:

    The SS man looked just like you”

    From what I gathered he’d never leave the floor
    I’d hold my breath when I’d hear his sneak-ering pause at the door

    Creaking the floor hiding, for sure

    ‘Cause where is the cure? / & how to endure?

    When fear and hate is such a lure

    At history’s core

    The answer’s obscure . . .

    Music and solo by Wayne Shorter Lyric by Kurt Elling (2014)

  • Just as sunlight casts a shadow / the first shade of another day

    Interrupted in his sleep / still in half a dream

    Nettled into awaking / wishing light away

    Drinking his cup of coffee / puzzling what he wants to say

    The evening before he’d tried to tell it

    He’d showed off all his ecstatic truths

    … and wine had encouraged his bray

    He’d gone to bed / long before the point was proved

    And risen / deep in the night / to walk

    To wander under stars / And time and again

    He’d wished then / that his children had come walking with hm

    To wonder at stars / until they grew dim

    Sharing the thoughts that spin him / like butterflies trapped within him

    And so he thinks himself unlucky / this someone who has eyes to see

    Who finds stars when wanting stars / who can sing the moon

    Someone whose feet get sandy / in the hidden dunes

    Someone who knows the ocean / who knows what he has to do

    He still thinks his mind is full of tangles

    Whose mind to him just a mangle is

    … and who thinks his poems a mess

    Even though he tells the truth / long before the point is proved

    And rises / deep in the night / to write

    To wander until light / and fly words like kites

    Whose children / share their father’s inner intuition

    To sing to the moon / I think maybe soon

    Somebody ought to tell him / Maybe we ought to tell him

    Something he ought to know

    Something his poems show

    Based on the Robert Bly poem “Visiting Sand Island”
    Music by Danilo Perez
    Lyric by Kurt Elling (2019)

  • Stage I
  • Beloved (for Toni Morrison)

    I have just four / the treasures of my spirit
    Laying like doves / all around my heart

    In memory they soar / But only I can see it
    Gone, as with love / since we’ve been torn apart
    The oldest was a girl / Curious of eye and gen/tle/she
    The next was a boy / Mighty
    Then came along / a boy who brought us laughter
    And finally the babe / safe in her mother’s arms

    And each was a joyful gift of God

    But what God gives you – God can take it too

    Escaping with the nestlings of my heart / to swim through the ice

    Across The Ohio’s frozen bridge of hopes

    The the sky that held the Bright Northern star was as cold as the frigid sea

    We’d rush over open fields and hide in woods crowded with feeble trees in fear and tears and whispered hymns and prayers
    to find where some safe place might be

    Dangerous bargains were entered then

    Signed, with my finger the bloody pen

    Scared of the smuggling men

    Prayed, and then prayed again

    But (still) the blood-thirsty dogs gave raging chase …

    My hope began to fall / I couldn’t save us all

    Where no one would hear us call / The river became a wall

    What did I do? We were too few / with dreams to pursue
    We couldn’t push through …

    Judea’s refuge cities had power
    To shelter, shield and save,
    E’en Rome had altars, ‘neath whose shade
    Might crouch the wan and weary slave.

    But Ohio had no sacred fane,
    To human rights so consecrated,
    Where thou may’st shield thy hapless ones
    From their darkly gathering fate.**

    And so I pleaded for strength enough
    to strike a blow for freedom
    Oh Lord … transfigure us!

    Knowing we would soon be seeing heaven made my heart a shining flare

    I lit a torchlight with God’s flaming words and set ablaze my head of hair

    Rising to the air I felt a sense of power reaching everywhere

    Overcoming all that I could see / The Lord’s Holy Spirit used me

    And, seeing the pathway / my children let go their fright

    Surrendering nothing / they burned up their place in the night

    Now they’re with God / surrounded by the angels

    Someday I’ll see / my doves once again / with all of the heavenly host

    . . . Amen

    ** “The Slave Mother, A Tale of the Ohio”, by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1857)
    Music by Danilo Perez
    Lyric by Kurt Elling (2019)

  • Stages II, III
  • I used to hear the running of the river as a song with no ending

    The sound was like a message to my spirit that the river was sending

    The rushing of the water played with harmonies continually ascending

    Enchanted by the river I would stand alone in fear / and ever trembling

    The Rio Grande filled my heart

    But now Ive seen a side of things that makes the song a curious tune

    (It seems) the river is a siren calling underneath a cowardly moon

    And harmonies grow darker as as the revelation opens up to me

    (and up to you)

    Because now I’ve seen the river kill our brother and our tiny sister too

    The Rio Grande has drowned my heart

    Of course, it’s not the river / It’s the people we’ve elected to lead us

    Who make the walls and send the armored wagons for the ones who would join us

    While billionaires recline upon divans upholstered in the skins of slaughter

    And feast upon the children we should think of as our only sons and daughters

    America, you’ve lost your heart

    (And it’s no excuse / just being blind)

    America, you’ve lost your mind

    Music by Danilo Perez
    Lyric by Kurt Elling (2019)
    Based on a theme by Hugo Distler

  • Rabo de Nube
  • There’s a secret that never dies / Like a dance of hidden meanings that we never apprehend

    There are questions just as old as time / And the answers that come never quite make amends

    Even so when you look at time / You can get a subtle feeling of the way it ought to be

    Take a good look at your own real life / And you will see if you want what you’ve gotten to be

    It’s a hope / a sign / a measure of quiet rapture / of love and what might come after
    It’s letting go / and letting no answer be an answer
    How did smoke learn how to fly? Where do birds go off to die?
    Why does coal sleep in darkness? Do dreams live in apartments?
    Is a number forever? Where’s the soul of the water?
    How old is old November? No one here can remember . . .
    If I die, where does time go? Do the bees feel vertigo?
    To get love, is there potion? Or is love only motion?

    Holy lift / holy reading Holy gift / Holy needing

    Holy sound / holy waiting Holy light / animating

    Holy food / Holy breathing Holy light interweaving

    Holy night / Holy handwrite Holy flight / Holy insight

    Holy Sun / Holy brother Holy moon / Holy mother

    Holy dream / Holy vision Ho ly scheme / Holy mission

    Holy one to another Holy me / Holy other

    Holy lives / Holy blending / Holy start / Holy ending

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