Smorgasbord 2016 in review – A Man and his Music – William Price King meets Kurt Elling – Part Two.


William and his musicPart 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/

1995

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.

Kurtmess

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

indexThe last album of the 90s was This Time It’s Love in 1998 with the addition of drummer Michael Raynor saxophonist Brad Wheeler and veteran jazz violinist and bassist Johnny Frigo.

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.

A Real Jazz Singer By Mark Jamison on September 27, 2000

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 Hear 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/
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Elling
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kurtelling
Touring schedule: http://kurtelling.com/touring/

Additional information:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Mill_Cocktail_Lounge
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_Hobgood
http://www.uno.edu/cola/music/faculty/edward-petersen.aspx

About William Price King

williampricekingWilliam 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

Smorgasbord 2016 Review – A Man and his Music – William Price King meets Kurt Elling


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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.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-jazz-and-music-series/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/classical-music-with-william-price-king/

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….

1995

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.

The Best in Chicago Jazz By Shadasious on August 15, 2003 Format: Audio CD

As a lifelong Chicagoan and as a person who has heard jazz constantly from local stars and family alike, I have been a Kurt Elling fan since his 1st CD in 1995. This is his best recording, all of his skills are on display and he is in top form. Vocalese is his specialty, taking a previously recorded tune and writing lyrics for that tune that was a hit on its own instrumental right. Songs like my fave Winelight, A Time to Say Goodbye and Never My Love, never sounded better. Laurence Hobgood his collaborater, producer, arranger and pianist is a marvel on the 88 keys and Stefon Harris adds just the right touches on the vibes to make this a celebrated recording. If you want to get a feel of current Chicago and contemporary jazz, get this CD first, then listen to other recordings by Kurt and then check out our other innovative hometown jazz people, Patricia Barber, Ken Vandermark, Grazyna Auguscik, Orbert Davis & Jim Gailloreto, you won’t be disappointed or bored.
The Early Years.

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/
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Elling
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kurtelling
Touring schedule: http://kurtelling.com/touring/

About William Price King

williampriceking

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 hope you have enjoyed the introduction to this talented artist.. Sally

William Price King Meets Kurt Elling – Starting next Wednesday.


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Welcome to a preview of the next Jazz artist to be given the William Price King treatment. Starting next week we will be showcasing the life and music of a contemporary artist. Kurt Elling is from Chicago and began his music career by focusing on the classics but turned his talent to Jazz when at college.

Here is something to whet your appetite. My Foolish Heart recorded at the Montreal Jazz Festival and uploaded by supadupasoja

Also if you have not met your host before then here is a recent Smorgasbord Open House that William joined me for.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/smorgasbord-open-house-jazz-singer-composer-and-musician-william-price-king-2/

About William Price King

williampriceking

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.

I will leave you with William Price King and guitarist Eric Sempe and a compilation teaser.

You can find the other artists in the previous series here:

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king/

Please join us next Wednesday for the start of the Kurt Elling story..