The top three music posts of 2016 were Kurt Elling part one and two and Diana Krall part one and over the next week I will feature all of them.. You can catch up with all the Jazz and Classical series for the last two years in these two directories.
Here is part one of the Kurt Elling series.
Welcome to the latest series A Man and his Music – William Price King meets jazz royalty. In the last two years we have reviewed the lives and work of many incredible artists and we are now going to take a look at the life and work of a very contemporary musician.. Kurt Elling is originally from Chicago and like many of the top jazz artists began his music career by focusing on the classics.
William Price King now picks up the story….
In the series so far we have explored the talent, techniques and unique qualities that make a musical artist stand out from the crowd. Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Nina Simone, Quincy Jones, and Natalie Cole are not only incredible musical talents but also superb performers. Over the last 50 years other styles of music have naturally evolved with new generations of musicians and vocalists, but as we saw with Diana Krall, there is still little substitute for the classic jazz standards, especially when given a new interpretation by some of our contemporary artists.
In this first part of the new series I am giving you a brief summary of Kurt Elling’s early life and you can read more at the links I have included at the end of the post. Over the next three weeks we will be looking in more detail at some of his fifteen albums and stand out performances.
I have been browsing through the reviews for Kurt Elling’s albums and whilst there are many reviews by critics, I was more interested in what those who buy the albums have to say. Here is just one by a fan from his home town of Chicago and over the next few weeks I will share more.
Kurt Elling was born in 1967, the son of Martha and Henry Elling and was fortunate enough to be part of a family that already celebrated music. His father was the Choirmaster at a Lutheran church and through Kurt’s childhood, he would sing in choirs as well as becoming an accomplished musician playing a number of instruments. These included the French horn, piano and the drums.
Whilst his musical education was focused more on classical compositions, the influence of artists now being featured on television in the 70s was to play a role in Kurt’s future career. He listened to Tony Bennett and wondered what it might be like to sing with a big band rather as part of a choral ensemble. In the meantime however he continued to devote his free time to his performances with the college choir.
He was to say later: “When it was undeniably uncool and geeky and all that, to be in the choir, I did it anyway, because it was reliably beautiful, and it was rewarding, and it gave me gifts of experience and friendships.”
That experience included singing the National Anthem with his high school madrigal choir Joyful Sounds, under the direction of Joyce Kortz in front of a crowd of over 40,000 people. A taste of things to come.
Kurt majored in history and minored in religion at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, but still found time to sing in the 70 voice Gustavus Choir, an a cappella choir that performed works from a variety of different composers, allowing him to develop his technical skills. His performance skills were also honed performing with the choir in the USA and also on a European tour.
His schedule still allowed time to appreciate other styles of music and in a later in an interview with Craig Jolley of All About Jazz online, he had this to say about his growing interest in jazz.
“A friend of mine down the hall was a big jazz fan, and he started hipping me to Dexter Gordon, Dave Brubeck and Herbie Hancock. It seemed like a natural thing to start singing that music. I turned to Ella Fitzgerald right away because with her scat-singing, she went beyond the usual boring pattern of singer-horn solo-singer.”
This new appreciation of jazz let Kurt to join both the college’s jazz orchestra and student combos although at this time his focus still remained in the classic realm.
Following his time at Gustavus Adolphus College, Kurt returned in 1989 to Illinois to start his graduate studies in philosophy and ethics at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School. His music was not neglected and he began playing a weekly jazz gig and whilst not hugely lucrative, it did reinforce Kurt’s new found love of the style. He was fortunate to find a mentor and teacher in Karl Johnson, the house pianist at Milt Trenier’s, a basement club in Chicago. However, the challenge of studying philosophy and religion during the day and spending his night-times in jazz clubs became too complex and jazz won.
Kurt was to say in an interview: “I realized that my fun and the joy of my life was happening a lot more in clubs with jazz musicians than it was in the classroom with academic people,” the singer told Fred Jung of Jazz Weekly online. “I sort of figured out that I had a chance of doing this kind of thing and decided to take my shot at it and started to work in earnest toward becoming a jazz musician.”
Now began the task of establishing himself as a jazz musician and as Kurt moved into the 90s he worked hard to get performances across various venues, supplementing his income at private functions. Spare time was spent in publicising his talent in Chicago.
One of his influences during this time was Mark Murphy an American jazz singer based in New York. He was known for his use of vocalese (a style of singing in which singers put words to jazz tunes, especially to previously improvised instrumental solos) and vocal improvisations with both melody and lyrics.
Mark Murphy was now in his early 60s and had received some wonderful accolades over the years including being the recipient of the Done Beat magazine jazz poll for Best Male Vocalist of the Year and also received six Grammy award nominations for Best Vocal Jazz Performance during his career.
Kurt began to also include improvisations and reworkings of some of the standards and when some criticised this move from the classic interpretations, he commented.
“Well, in jazz, the way it exists is for every performer to find his own voice and to speak what he really thinks and play the notes that he feels sounds good, and so it would be apathetical of the music for me to do anything other than what I really hear,” he explained to Fred Jung. “I could probably make a lot more money playing what other people have already played and they’ve already done the work to make that popular, Frank Sinatra or Harry Connick or something like that. I think the truest respect that you can pay to the music of somebody who is a great artist like Frank Sinatra, or Betty Carter, or Jon Hendricks, is to try to figure out your own thing and to build on what they’ve done and to learn from them, but more importantly, to become yourself and to have your own thing to say and to be an artist in your own right.”
Next time in the Kurt Elling story we join his career in the mid-90s as he becomes a regular performer at the Green Mill Club and his first recordings for Blue Note.
As a taste of things to come here is Kurt Elling with Nature Boy uploaded by cyberjaz
Buy Kurt Elling Music: http://www.amazon.com/Kurt-Elling/e/B000APALCM
Find out more about Kurt Elling: http://kurtelling.com/
Touring schedule: http://kurtelling.com/touring/
About William Price King
William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.
His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.
William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album. http://cdbaby.com/cd/williampriceking
William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.
You can find the other artists in the previous series here:
Thank you for dropping by today and hope you have enjoyed the introduction to this talented artist.. Sally