Friday, May 08, 2009

Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman [Video]

Grammy nominated and critically-acclaimed vocalist Kurt Elling will release Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman, his eighth overall album and second release on Concord Jazz. The live collection was recorded in January 2009 in Manhattan as part of Lincoln Center's American Songbook series. The 12-track release features an all-star cast of musicians including saxophonist Ernie Watts, the Laurence Hobgood Trio and the string quartet, ETHEL.



Throughout his eclectic career, Kurt Elling has roved freely across vocalese, transformed instrumental music, tunes from the Great American Songbook, poetry, theatre, dance and more. His new project began in his home town "as an idea suggested by my friends at the Chicago Jazz Festival," recalls Elling. "They gave me a call and asked me essentially to reiterate the John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman material for a bill they were planning. I'm always happy to have an idea like that. But it didn't interest me quite as much to simply reiterate the material. So I asked if I could do it my own way."

As the program morphed through various phases, one aspect was consistent - Elling's desire to place the music in the setting of a string quartet, first with acoustic bass, and later with a complete jazz trio led by Laurence Hobgood, his long-time musical companion, pianist, who also provided most of the arrangements. Kurt recruited Ernie Watts on saxophone and ETHEL, and the group began touring with the project. The response to the program was wonderful and Kurt decided to record the set live in New York at the Allen Room in Lincoln Center.

Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman is a stunning spectrum of music, both vocal and instrumental. The album opens with an introductory interpretation of the American Songbook classic, "All or Nothing At All," in which the interconnectedness between Elling's vocal and Watt's tenor saxophone calls up immediate references to the Coltrane/Hartman source. The transformative interpretations of songs such as "Autumn Serenade," "Nancy With the Laughing Face" and "You Are Too Beautiful" are definitive examples of how to remain true to the inner essence of a song.

"When you hear any of those great masters - like Coltrane - and realize the incredible gift from God that is given to those people, you can't overstate their importance to the jazz world, to the world in general. And we were very much aware of that fact as we put all this together," remarked Elling.

Since Elling has been touring with Dedicated To You, the project has received critical praise. The Chicago Tribune called it "...some of the best ballad singing being performed today." The New York Times said, "Mr. Elling has proved his finesse as a Hartman-like melodist...accessing both Coltrane and Hartman, he sounded like no one but himself." Throughout his career Elling has earned eight Grammy nominations, top spot placement in the Down Beat Critics' and Jazz

Times Readers' polls, four Jazz Journalists Association wins for Best Male Vocalist and the Prix Billie Holiday from the Academe du Jazz in Paris.

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