Part one and part two of the career and music of Kurt Elling were the top music posts of 2016..here is part one https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king/kurt-elling/
Moving into the 1990s, Kurt Elling became a regular at the Green Mill Club Monday Night sessions. The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge.. also known as the Green Mill Jazz Club is a venue in uptown Chicago with a reputation for outstanding music and some historical connections to the Chicago mob.
It had opened in 1907 as Pop Morse’s Roadhouse and evolved over the years into the Green Mill Gardens. During the prohibition, a member of Al Capone’s organisation became part owner of the venue, and over the next few years, tunnels under the property were used by the mob for various nefarious activities. Al Capone had a favourite booth that was conveniently located with a line of sight on the front and back entrances and it is still in the bar today.
Thankfully by the time Kurt Elling began playing on Monday nights in the 90s, the mob years were over but the club had established itself as a top jazz venue. The leader of the jazz sessions was Ed Petersen a tenor saxophonist who had been playing at the Green Mill since the 80s. Petersen was well established in the Jazz scene in Chicago and having played with emerging artists such as guitarist Fareed Haque and trumpeter Brad Goode, he was well placed to give Kurt career advice. This was to focus on his lyric abilities and this led to Kurt developing what was to become the highly successful collaboration with the pianist in the band, Laurence Hobgood.
On a side note.. Ed Petersen would continue to work with Kurt Elling over the years playing on his albums along with those of Fareed Haque and Frank Mantooth as well as releasing two albums on the Delmark label: Upward Spiral in 1988 and The Haint in 1994. He is now Associate Chair of Music and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at the University of New Orleans.
Laurence Hobgood at this time was in his early 30s and had moved to Chicago in 1988 where he began to establish himself in the Jazz Scene before being invited to join the Monday sessions at the Green Mill with Ed Petersen. He and Kurt Elling met in 1993 and began their musical collaboration.
Laurence introduced Kurt to the other members of Trio New which were bassist Eric Hochberg and drummer Paul Wertico. This led to a demo tape that was co-produced by Laurence. After obtaining the finance to book studio time, Kurt Elling recorded his first album and this was sent for feedback to the manager of a musician friend. It became a whirlwind courtship at that point with offers of representation and an unexpected call from the president of the Blue Note label, Bruce Lundvall.
A few months later after signing to the label, Close Your Eyes was released in 1995 as it had originally been recorded in Chicago. The album featured Laurence Hobgood, Eric Hochberg, Paul Wertico with acoustic bassist Rob Amster, saxophonists Von Freeman and Ed Petersen and guitarist Dave Onderdonk.
As well as jazz standards such as Wait Till You See Her by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, the title track Close Your Eyes by Bernice Petkere and Never, Never Land by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Julie Styne there were original tracks that were arranged to showcase Kurt Elling’s emerging signature style.
Here is a review of the album by Michael G. Nastos.
For his debut recording, Chicago vocalist Elling pushes the envelope, challenging listeners and his musicians with beat poetry, ranting, and his Mark Murphy-ish singing. There’s quite a bit of dramatist/actor in Elling, although the romantic in him is also pretty prevalent. Acting much like a tenor saxophonist, Elling can wail and shout, expound on social themes, and scat like a demon. Help from the extraordinary pianist Laurence Hobgood, bassists Eric Hochberg and Rob Amster, and drummer Paul Wertico inspires Elling to even higher plateaus, while tenor saxophone foils Ed Petersen and Von Freeman appear separately on three of the 13 tracks.
Elling writes a ton of lyrics. His take on Wayne Shorter’s “Dolores” is “Dolores Dream,” on which the singer speaks of Chi-Town in terms both favorable (hanging out at the Green Mill jazz club) and not so favorable (“fat frying, spluttering rank Chicago smeltering along, smothered in hot wooly sweat”), with a maniacal swing following his a cappella intro. His ramrod scatting is amazing both on this piece and on an exploratory take of Herbie Hancock’s “Hurricane.” A “So What”-type modality informs “(Hide The) Salome,” with vicious scatting and Freeman’s tenor in complete, frustrated agreement. Elling’s poetic recitation of “Married Blues” and the avant beat style of “Now It Is Time” show his reverence for Rexroth and Rilke, respectively.
As far as pure singing goes, “All the Sad Young Men” is beautifully rendered — similar to Murphy, but not as overtly pronounced. “Close Your Eyes” opens with a tender piano intro, flowing into bass/vocal wistfulness and a mid-tempo romp. Elling extrapolates on the original lyric and scats feverishly on the bridge. He is at his most sexual on the slinky bossa “Never Say Goodbye” and the ballad “Storyteller Experiencing Total Confusion,” with Petersen’s sax shyly filling in cracks of fear and disillusionment. There’s clearly more in store for Elling as he matures, but this is as auspicious a vocal jazz debut as the world has heard.
Close Your Eyes was nominated for Best Jazz Vocalist Performance in the 1996 Grammys and following the critics’ accolades for the album, Kurt Elling received invitations to play at Carnegie Hall and top Jazz festivals. 1996 was also spent on a world tour and the recording of his second album The Messenger released in 1997. The existing collaborative team was enhanced by the addition of Jim Widlowski on drums, Orbert Davis on Trumpet, Eddie Johnson on tenor saxophone and Cassandra Wilson with vocals on track 11, Time of the Season.
Jazz critics and fans loved the album and its fresh arrangements and establishment of his unique style and range with standout tracks including Nature Boy, Tanya Jean, Gingerbread Boy and It’s Just a Thing.
As with his previous album, The Messenger brought Kurt Elling his second Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocalist. http://kurtelling.com/news/awards.php
The Allmusic review by Tim Sheridan awarded the album four stars, and said Elling “finds a happy medium between romantic rumination and vocal experimentation. The highlight of the disc is “Freddie’s Yen for Jen,”a stellar jazz experience that comes pretty damn close to committing the pure emotion of love to tape.
The tracks covered most of the romantic spectrum including My Foolish Heart, The Very Thought of You, She’s Funny That Way, and Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.
Here is what one fan has to say about the album.
I’ve been a fan of Kurt Elling’s for years. His concurrent sophistication with a musical line, understanding of the lyric, and his vocal control make him unsurpassed among contemporary jazz singers, and on this “record” he wields his ax sublimely. For example, the Freddie Hubbard tune (Frddie’s Yen for Jen) is a multi-leveled tour de force with vocal licks so true to Freddie’s trumpet form and intent, it’s amazing. Unfortunately his sophistication doesn’t have mass appeal and so he’ll never sell as many CDs as the popular wanna-be jazz vocalists.
While I would subjectively argue that “Close Your Eyes” is his best CD, “This Time It’s Love” is a great introduction to Kurt if you are new to the fold. If you like jazz, do yourself a favor and get this CD. Live he is even better.
To end the 1990s here is the performance that I have selected; My Foolish Heart live at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2007. In my opinion, Kurt Elling gives a staggering performance in this video of the Oscar nominated song, “My Foolish Heart.” A real tour de force.
As usual, he is in total command of his instrument. His robust baritone sound is flawless, and he weaves in and out of his head voice (falsetto) in an appealing pianissimo with the ease and virtuosity of a master. He is at ease with the emotion and the beauty of the text which he exploits profoundly. Chill bumps guaranteed.
At times his manner of interpretation, for me, is reminiscent of my mentor Mel Tormé. Elling’s musicians lay the groundwork with a myriad of rhythmical colors and textures making incredible sounds that help create the magic of the moment, especially the sublime piano solo of Laurence Hobgood. This performance is a work of art, I would even say a “masterpiece.” Enjoy!
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: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-jazz-and-music-series/
Thank you for dropping by today and always look forward to your feedback.. Sally