Monday 7th November 2016
- Saturday 12th November 2016
£40.00 - £60.00
Elling's rich baritone 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 are springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word, and poetry.
The New York Times declared, "Elling is the standout male vocalist of our time." The Washington Post added, "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."
Elling was the Artist-in-Residence for the Singapore and Monterey Jazz Festivals. He has also written multi-disciplinary works for The Steppenwolf Theatre and the City of Chicago. The Obama Administration's first state dinner featured Elling in a command performance.
Elling is a renowned artist of vocalese—the writing and performing of words over recorded improvised jazz solos. The natural heir to jazz pioneers Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure and Jon Hendricks, Elling has set his own lyrics to the improvised solos of Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. He often incorporates images and references from writers such as Rilke, Rumi, Neruda and Proust into his work. The late poet and Bollingen Prize winner Robert Creeley wrote, "Kurt Elling takes us into a world of sacred particulars. His words are informed by a powerful poetic spirit." Said Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate of the United States, "In Kurt Elling's art, the voice of jazz gives a new spiritual presence to the ancient, sweet and powerful bond between poetry and music."
Kurt Elling has toured vigorously throughout his career, thrilling audiences throughout the world. In that time he has led his own ensemble and has collaborated with many of the world's finest orchestras.
Passion World, Kurt Elling's latest recording, culminates nearly five years of collecting and honing songs – and in some cases writing new lyrics – that express love, romance and heartbreak around the world. Throughout his travels, Elling has observed how deeply-felt passions are shaped in countless ways be each unique culture. Those insights hve guided the creation of Passion World, a tour-de-force project that is vibrant with diversity, celebrating what makes us all human. In concert Elling tells rich stories about exotic places, cultures and times. Passion World is a musical magic carpet taking you on a fascinating journey through the realms of romance.
The album you hold in your hands is a map, but Passion World isn't a geographical location. Rather, this disparate collection charts the veiled fears, unspoken confessions, indelible memories and rapturous desires found in every human heart. Drawing on material from more than a half-dozen countries, Kurt Elling searches out the particular sensibilities of different cultures, creating an emotionally charged mosaic; one that amplifies a profound array of universal experiences. This is what great art does.
While it's impressive to watch Elling throw himself into so many different traditions, eclecticism isn't the point or agenda here. What binds the album together, aside from Elling's emotional commitment to the material, is the enviable cohesion and versatility of his collaborators. Time in the trenches and on the road bind together a working American band that features the impeccable musicianship and textural resourcefulness of guitarist John McLean, pianist Gary Versace, bassist Clark Sommers and drummer Kendrick Scott. Time in the music itself ties Elling and his band to musicians like France's virtuoso accordionist Richard Galliano and Germany's trumpet star Till Brönner.
In many ways, the first piece encapsulates the way that Elling reaches far beyond the usual sources for material. Starting with a Pat Metheny creation he re-discovered through the work of Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek, Elling added his own new lyric in English and commissioned John Clayton to create the music to a new and haunting introduction, "The Verse." By way of easing a much remarked-upon personal transition, he moves directly into an arrangement created for the band by his long-time collaborator Laurence Hobgood, so that Elling's first album after the end of their two-decade partnership opens with their collaboration. The end result is a strikingly dramatic piece, part art song and part dreamscape.
Elling gathered many of the songs in Passion World through the course of his travels, and they come freighted with the backstory of their discovery.
The "Loch Tay Boat Song" is a traditional piece Elling learned while backpacking through the Highlands while a college student, not long before he turned to jazz as his true creative outlet. The emotionally striking recording features Scotland's saxophone master Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in a fresh harmonic setting from the young German arranger Florian Ross.
"Bonita Cuba" came about via an accident of proximity when Elling found himself in a cabin adjacent to Arturo Sandoval on a Caribbean jazz cruise. From his adjoining balcony, Elling listened to the Cuban trumpet legend playing an impossibly sad melody over and over again.
When asked whether the piece was simply an ode to the setting sun or something more, Sandoval explained that he was inventing a tune to comfort himself. "I was thinking about Cuba, and about friends back home I haven't seen for decades," he said. "I was thinking about my mother, who always thought she'd go home. Instead, she died in America, and is buried there." The lyric Elling and Phil Galdston composed complements Sandoval's heartbreaking melody perfectly. The song redeems some small portion of the vast, lost expanse of 90 miles that continues to separate Sandoval from his homeland, and gives the sadness room to sing.
Just when Passion World seems to brim with tears, Elling brings the effervescent Los Angeles jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek to the fore for a duet on Dorival Caymmi's ode to the beauties of his homeland, "Você Já Foi à Bahia?," a brief blast of pure sensuous joy. (After all, if you really want to samba, you should go to Bahia!) And then it's back to luxurious tears, with Michael Abene's ravishing arrangement of Brahms' "Nicht Wandle, Mein Licht" for the WDR Funkhausorchester and WDR Big Band. There aren't many artists who can pull off this kind of tonal and cultural juxtaposition, but Elling does so with sincerity and grace.
In other moments Elling works in the well-worn tradition of jazz alchemy, turning familiar pop songs into vehicles for improvisation, as in the sinewy version of the hit from Ireland's U2, "Where The Streets Have No Name," and in the infectious refrain from Iceland's Björk, "Who Is It?" (Both arrangements are by the invaluable guitarist John McLean.) Kurt Elling isn't making any naive panglossian claims with Passion World. Rather, he approaches the material with wide-eyed marvel at the multiplicity of the human experience.
And, he's already surveying new territory to expand the realm. "My ears are open for more," Elling says. "We may as well think of this as Passion World, Volume 1, since I know I haven't even touched on music from the Middle East, Asia or Africa. For now, though, the arrangements on Passion World are the ones I want to give to different audiences as I tour. It's remarkable how people respond when you make an obvious effort to learn and honor a precious part of their culture."
In one sense, Kurt Elling is following the artist's imperative to search out the most resonant material, whatever the source. That necessity to keep stoking the creative fires is an interior process. But there's another, similarly primal but outwardly directed impulse at work. Elling is putting into practice E.M. Forster's famous dictum from Howards End, "Only connect!...Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height." Connect he does, offering another way to understand jazz as a truly international music.– Andrew Gilbert …close
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