Kurt Elling is joined by Ernie Watts for Coltrane/Hartman tribute
Kurt Elling, called "the preeminent male jazz singer of our time" by CD Review, will be joined versatile saxophonist Ernie Watts in "Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings Coltrane/Hartman" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, in the historic Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City.
The concert, presented by Hancher Auditorium, will revisit and reinterpret songs from the 1963 collaboration between John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. The album was the influential saxophonist's sole collaboration with a vocalist and is considered one of the most romantic albums ever recorded.
The Laurence Hobgood Trio ( Elling's regular band ) and the post-classical string quartet ETHEL will back Elling and Watts with lush new settings of the classic material.
Elling has been a multiple winner for Best Male Singer in both the downbeat and JazzTimes polls - topping each poll for six consecutive years. During a 10-year stretch, he attracted seven Grammy Award nominations while also winning three Jazz Journalists' Association Awards for Best Male Vocalist and the Prix Billie Holiday from the Academie du Jazz in Paris. He was the artist-in-residence for the Monterrey Jazz Festival's 2006 season.
Playboy Magazine named Elling "the male Jazz vocalist of the Nineties, " and more recently the Guardian declared, "Elling is an omnicompetent artist of almost ruthless efficiency . . . ( He ) is truly a musical phenomenon." Jazz Review in the U.K. raised the possibility that "Elling may be the greatest male jazz singer of all time."
The natural heir to jazz pioneers Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure and Jon Hendricks, Elling is also the contemporary voice in vocalese, setting the improvised solos of Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, Dexter Gordon, Pat Metheny and others to his own distinctive lyrics.
Grammy winner Watts' remarkably eclectic résumé runs the gamut from Steely Dan, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and Frank Zappa to Charlie Haden's Quartet West, Pat Metheny, Canonball Adderley and the Buddy Rich Big Band. In a diverse career that has spanned more than 40 years, he has been featured on more than 500 recordings by artists in jazz, rock and fusion, and has released 15 solo recordings.
Kirk Silsbee of LA CityBeat wrote, "The virtues we've come to associate with Watts include fertile harmonic imagination, a beautiful Trane-soaked-in-wine tone, the blowtorch cry, rippling cadenzas and the ability to swing at any tempo."
Everyone knows John Coltrane, whose influence reaches far beyond the saxophone and beyond jazz, but baritone jazz singer Johnny Hartman was an artist underappreciated in his lifetime. But thanks to the soundtrack for the film "The Bridges of Madison County" and the CD era his artistry has been introduced to new generations of appreciative listeners.
The Coltrane/Hartman recording of "Lush Life" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000, and Hartman was posthumously inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
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