@ the PizzaExpress Jazz Club, London
14 November 2009
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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)
Elling is an eight-time GRAMMY nominee who has spent the last nine
consecutive years at the top of the Down Beat Critics poll and the
last four consecutive years winning the JazzTimes Readers’
poll. He has won five Jazz Journalists Association Awards for Best
Male Vocalist and the Prix Billie Holiday from the Academie du Jazz
in Paris. His quartet tours the world continually, performing to
critical acclaim in Europe, the Middle East, South America, Asia
and Australia, and at jazz festivals and concert halls across North
America. In addition to leading a regular quartet that features
collaborator Laurence Hobgood, Kurt Elling has spent recording and/or
performing time with an array of artists that includes Terence Blanchard,
Dave Brubeck, The Clayton/Hamilton Orchestra, Benny Golson, Jon
Hendricks, Fred Hersch, Charlie Hunter, Al Jarreau, David Liebman,
Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, Marian McPartland, The Bob Mintzer
Big Band, Mark Murphy, John Pizzarelli, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and The
Yellowjackets. He has written multi-disciplinary works of art for
The Steppenwolf Theater and by commission for the City of Chicago.
Kurt Elling is a former National Trustee and National Vice Chairman
of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (The GRAMMYS)
and has been artist-in-residence for the Monterey Jazz and the Singapore
Kurt Elling’s rich baritone voice spans four octaves and
displays an astonishing technical facility and emotional depth.
Elling has an awesome command of rhythm, texture, phrasing, and
dynamics, often sounding more like a virtuoso jazz musician than
a mere singer. His repertoire ranges from his own compositions to
modern interpretations of standards, both of which can be the springboard
for free form
improvisation, scatting, spoken word and poetry. As composer and
lyricist, Elling has written scores of his own compositions and
set lyrics to the songs and improvised solos of many jazz masters.
In addition to the compositional work he has done with collaborator-in-chief
Laurence Hobgood, Elling has collaborated in the creation of new
pieces with John Clayton, Fred Hersch, Bob Mintzer, Charlie Hunter
Davis, among others.
One of Kurt Elling’s major contributions is as a writer and
performer of vocalese, the art of writing and performing words over
the recorded improvised solos of jazz artists. Elling often incorporates
images and references from writers such as Rilke, Proust, Kerouac,
Rumi, Neruda and Kenneth Rexroth into his work. The natural heir
to jazz pioneers Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure, and Jon Hendricks,
Elling is the contemporary voice of vocalese, setting his own deeply
spiritual and compelling lyrics to the solos of Wayne Shorter, Keith
Jarrett, Dexter Gordon, Pat Metheny, and others. Responding to the
work, no less a poet than the late Robert Creeley wrote, “Kurt
Elling takes us into a world of sacred particulars. His words are
informed by a powerful poetic spirit.” Elling’s lyrics
were published in a book entitled LYRICS by Circumstantial Press
Kurt Elling has been featured in profiles for CBS Sunday Morning,
for CNN, and in hundreds of newspaper and magazine reviews and articles.
The Washington Post declared, “Since the mid-1990s, no singer
in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling.
With his soaring vocal flights, his edgy lyrics and sense of being
on a musical mission, he has come to embody the creative spirit
in jazz.” Said Jazzreview.com, “This is a singer of
supreme confidence, a vocalist at the top of his game and a true
master of jazz vocalese.” The Chicago Tribune decided that
“Kurt Elling is going to change many listeners’ minds
on the meaning and purpose of Jazz singing.”