Kurt Elling 101

Why Kurt Elling is the right choice for the 2016 N’DIGO Foundation Gala

This year the N’DIGO Gala celebrates 20 years and the new venue – The Logan Center @ UofC is a fabulous music room. It is a perfect jazz room, large enough in seating capacity, yet intimate. It is a stunning stage and a perfect jazz setting. With Kurt Elling we maintain our tradition of excellent entertainers. He creates the sizzle and magic that moves us and our imaginations into believing that things are possible. Kurt does that in many ways. If you are not familiar with his work, these videos should help. Enjoy reading our reasons for choosing Kurt Elling and watching him at work:

Reason #1: Kurt Elling is a Jazz Innovator

Nate Chinen of Jazz Times wrote: “Let’s come right out and say it: Kurt Elling is the most influential jazz vocalist of our time.” This is HUGE praise and signals the respect and gratitude many people feel towards Kurt Elling. His phrasing is full of ideas and he is never sitting still. “Never satisfied to deliver what is expected, Elling’s command of rhythm, texture, phrasing, and dynamics is more like a virtuoso jazz instrumentalist than a vocalist.” continued Chinen. He has played with everyone and influenced generations of vocalists – male and female alike.
“You Send Me” at Jazz at Lincoln Center, 2013


Reason #2: Kurt Elling is deeply a Chicagoan

Kurt Elling is a Hyde Parker who attended Chicago Theological Seminary and a little-known fact is that he bought Barack and Michelle Obama’s condo before they moved to Washington. Kurt’s a cool guy and his shows are special.
About the recording of Live In Chicago, he said “I remember all of us being very excited about making a live recording for Blue Note at The Green Mill. And when I say “all of us”, I mean the band, Jennifer, our Wednesday night regulars, the owner Dave Jemilo, the staff, the engineers, our friends in the Chicago press — everybody. It was a cracking-special time. But I think I was the most excited because it meant that I could try to bring everybody along with me in an experience that could conceivably go out to the whole jazz world. I was and am very proud of the players on the Chicago scene who inspired and encouraged me.”
Horace Silver’s “Home Cookin'” @ The Green Mill (12/17/10)


Reason #2: Kurt Ellings singing is rooted in the Church and the unknown

A few years ago, Ted Panken of Jazz.com quoted Elling as saying about his singing “There’s some church in there. There was a Lutheran church in Chicago called Bethel Lutheran, and I had sung in the church choir there. I had sung with Dixieland bands, and I had sung a lot of gospel stuff. I was sort of trying to put all the pieces together. I was conscious enough of the history of jazz, and the history of jazz singing, to want to figure out … ‘Well, I’ve sung with the big band. I’ve sung with the gospel choir and I’ve soloed with the gospel choir. I’ve done counterpoint. I’ve sung with this Dixieland thing. I did small group. … It’s in that leap into the unknown that is the experience every time you start a solo and you don’t know where it’s going to go. It’s just the Void with (musician) friends and chord changes. But it’s the unknown.”
“Nature Boy” (made famous by Nat King Cole) with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, 2008 – Talk about venturing into the unknown, check out this solo! Not to mention Kobie Watkins and Lawrence Hobgood!


Reason #4: Kurt Elling Shares with us “Purposeful Beauty”

Kurt’s voice is romantic and, in his performances, he might recite a powerful poem or tell a little-known story about a song or singer with whom he has performed. His repertoire is rich and he makes it beautiful, even somewhat spiritual. Dr. David Tracy, one of the leading thinkers based at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School (where I took my graduate degree) has said that “religion is poetry which intervenes in life”. I find that a very helpful definition. If it is true, one could also assert that poetry in music can serve to call sensitive moderns to a life lived in a higher state of consciousness. Poetry invites us to dream ourselves awake – to share in a vision.
Jazz standard “My Foolish Heart” at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Montreal, Canada, July 4, 2007

We invite you (again) to join us at the 2016 N’DIGO Foundation Gala on June 12th. More information can be found on the GALA PAGE and tickets can be purchased at BROWN PAPER TICKETS site.


Hermene Hartman

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