@ the Queen Elizabeth Hall
18 November 2008
Click an image to enlarge.
Kurt Elling’s debut Blue Note album, Close Your Eyes, released
in spring, 1995, heralded the arrival of a young and dynamic jazz
singer. His singular approach, though it drew on such sources as
scat singing, vocalese and poetry, was unlike anything heard before.
Now to accompany that well-received, Grammy-nominated premiere,
comes The Messenger. Here, Chicago-born-and-based Elling, just 29,
takes his unique gifts a step further, offering selections that
continue to set a standard for new directions in jazz vocal performance.
Elling was destined to be a great jazz singer. Born on November
2, 1967, he started singing in church, then studied violin and French
horn. He didn't discover jazz until he was a student at Gustavus
Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minesota, where he majored in history
and minored in religion. A friend turned Elling on to Dave Brubeck,
Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock and Ella Fitzgerald. “It seemed
natural to start singing that music,” he says, “and
I started scat singing almost the day I started singing jazz.”
After graduating from Gustavus in 1989, Elling returned to Chicago
and became a graduate student at the University of Chicago's Divinity
School. But music began to take hold. Elling discovered jazz singer
Mark Murphy and was entranced by his mixture of singing and employment
of beat poetry. He started singing with Chicago sax legend Von Freeman
and saxophonist Ed Petersen, who led a band at that jumping point,
the Green Mill. The singer would get tremendous response on the
bandstand and found his interest in his studies decreasing. So,
after three years, and one credit shy of graduation, Elling left
school in January 1992.
One day in late 1993, Peterson decided to give Elling some “advice”
that had a profound influence on him. “I had been scatting
all the time, and had made real progress,” he says, “but
Ed took me aside and told me, ‘Every musician can scat. But
when you make up your own lyrics when you're singing, that's cool.
That's your strength.’” This style, Elling calls “ranting”,
has become his signature. With his band Elling brought this brand
of spontaneous outburst, whose topics encompass anything from love
to philosophy to the jazz scene, to the level of art. Elling coupled
these “rants” with contemporary vocalese numbers (such
as writing lyrics to Wayne Shorter's "Dolores" as performed
by Miles Davis) and persuasive interpretations of standards, achieving
solid response in Chicago.
Being a local hero in Chicago before, Elling has in two brief years
become an internationally recognized and critically regarded jazz
vocal artist, performing at festivals like Montreux Jazz Festival,
North Sea Jazz Festival, Nice Jazz Festival, Israel Jazz Festival
and many more.
Desert Island Discs
Which 2 albums would you take with you to a desert island?
Count Basie and his orchestra – Breakfast Dance and Barbeque
Reneé Fleming & Jean-Yves Thibaudet - Night Songs (Fauré,
Debussy, Marx, Strauss, Rachmaninov)