|jazz and blues news|
interviews and articles
jazz gig guide
|jazz and blues links|
Kurt Elling :: Blue Note – January 22nd, 2005
by Eva Simontacchi
Photo by Alberto Gottardelli
We are at the Blue Note to interview Kurt Elling, one of the most interesting voices on the international jazz scene. We are talking about an artist that has given his creative contribution reproposing the standards under a new light, a master in vocalese and scat. He is at Blue Note with his Quartet, featuring Laurence Hobgood (piano), Rod Amster (double-bass), and Frank Parker (drums). The concert begins with an instrumental piece by Laurence Hobgood. When the music stops, Kurt Elling joins his band on the stage and greets the audience in Italian (with the aid of a slip of paper, where he wrote his notes). His first song is “Easy Living”, a ballad that emphasizes his warm and resonant voice. His ballads are extremely smooth and somewhat hypnotic. The next song is “In The Winelight”, and we all have a chance to experience Kurt Elling’s tuva overtones, scat and vocalese. “Man In The Air” – the song that gives the title to his latest record - and “All The way”, that begins a cappella, with Rob Amster joining in with his double-bass after a while, and a beautiful piano solo by Laurence Hobgood, are the next two songs that Kurt Elling and his band propose to their milanese audience. “Revolution” is a masterpiece on a solo by John Coltrane; Kurt Elling sings his own original lyrics. After a request for “more” by the audience, Kurt Elling satisfies his fans by singing “Space Cowboy”, voice and double-bass. It is more than a song, really. Kurt Elling acts while he is singing.
Between the first set and the second set, we join Kurt Elling in the backstage for a short interview.
E.S.: We saw you in August 2003, your first concert at Blue Note Milano, and we are happy to meet you once again. You are probably feeling more at home in Milano now, it’s your second time. We noticed you are talking and joking a little more with the audience, and the audience appreciates it a lot.
E.S. You have a lot of creativity; you’ve done plenty in writing poetry, music. What are you planning next?
K.E.: Well, I need to make another record, and I have too many ideas to decide which one is going to come next. But I have a new Manager who is going to help me decide. We are going to cooperate together on some ideas. I mean, I still have a play that I want to write, and I’ve got a screen play that I’m working on, and I’m very busy with the Recording Academy, because I’m the National Vice-Chairman, so that task for now takes up a lot of brain time and creativity, because if you’re thinking about a corporate idea, a corporate mentality, and how a seventeen thousand member organization should be run, and writing proposals, and writing position papers, then, your head gets overtaken with that. So, after May I’ll have done as much as I can do for now, and I need to be an artist again! In the meantime, I need to make a record... and that will happen – I hope – before April.
E.S. So you’ll have a new record coming out very soon. You were talking about plays a moment ago; let us know a little more, please..
K.E.: Yes, I’ve always done that. Well, I’ve written sort of multi-discilpinary art events, but they haven’t been straight theatre, you know, without music. It’s been always with music.
E.S.: Yes, with music and dance, am I right?
K.E.: Right, exactly. So it’s been more of an event, or happening, rather than theatre like: “the curtain comes up: Act One”.
E.S.: Are you going to work on these projects with your wife?
K.E.: Oh, I don’t think so, she’s retired. You know, ballet is very hard over the long term. It’s a very difficult discipline.
E.S.: What do you like to convey to your audience? What would you like them to bring with them after one of your concerts?
K.E.: (He stops to think for a moment..) That’s it! Good conversation! Elation, something to be excited about and energy, so that they stay up late and they talk through the night, and they wonder at it, and they’re excited about it and they want more. And romance!
E.S.: I’m sure you’re giving all this, and more!
E.S.: Is there something you would like to say to your Italian audience? Here there are many, many people that admire you.... Young people too, young voice students, jazz students......
K.E.: Is that true? That’s good!
E.S.: Yes, sure! What would you like to tell them?
K.E.: Keep having me back, and my Italian will improve, I promise! (He chuckles warmly).
The second set starts with “Time To Say Goodbye”. Kurt Elling specifies that this is a new piece for this band, with lyrics in French. “Bye Bye Blackbird” is the next song, followed by a wonderful piano-voice slow ballad version of “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning”. The second set ends with “Nature Boy”. The audience asks for more, and Kurt Elling sings “The Clouds Are heavy, You Dig?”, music by Brubeck – Desmond, and lyrics based on the short story “How The Thimble Came To God” by R. M. Rilke.
He offers his audience both his vocal and his theatrical abilities in songs such as “The Clouds Are Heavy, You Dig?”, and his listeners are captivated by his personality and skills. Kurt Elling is immensely versatile, and keeps changing from one moment to the next – he can charm you with a traditional ballad that may remind you of great Frank Sinatra, and the next moment be scat-singing and commanding his voice as an instrument – acting while singing. He joins music and poetry – his own lyrics or lyrics based on poetry of the beat generation singing them on music by Zawinul or Coltrane. His scat is absolutely flawless, every note is clear and audible, even when startingly quick. He is eclectic and many-sided, with a clearly defined personality. We will wait and see what other surprises Kurt Elling will thrill us with in the future (apart from improving his Italian!) We’ll check him out!
published 19.07.2005© 2005 jazz news :: home page