"Mystery and the questions we ask are much more important than the answers. As a musician, you're always asking what melody has not been played, what improv moves are going to happen tonight. Jazz is a permanent state of question." - Kurt Elling
Big fans of straight-ahead jazz have heard and savored the bourbon-rich baritone of vocalist Kurt Elling, but for those unacquainted - listen up. Lauded for his warm swinging style, four-octave range, and dynamic songwriting and improvisations, Elling has recorded 15 albums and garnered unprecedented accolades, including a 14-year run atop the DownBeat Magazine Critics Poll, a dozen Grammy nominations, and eight Jazz Journalists Association awards for "Male Singer of the Year."
Born in Chicago and raised in nearby Rockford, he seasoned his chops in Sunday morning church choirs and Saturday night jazz clubs, eventually switching from aspiring teacher in college to inspiring crooner for life. Playing weekly gigs at Chicago's legendary Green Mill Jazz Club, he caught the attention of Blue Note Records, cut his first album, and his career was off to the races. Over the ensuing 25 years, Elling has collaborated with jazz legends and classical orchestras, created multi-disciplinary theatrical works, served as artist-in-residence for the Singapore and Monterey Jazz Festivals, and explored the fertile common ground between jazz and poetry - always stretching his creative wings.
On his new album, "Secrets Are The Best Stories," he's joined by renowned Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez for a spare and beautiful collaboration supported by top-call musicians like altoist Miguel Zenón, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Johnathan Blake. As the title implies, the songs find writer and storyteller Elling in a deeply contemplative space blending smooth melodic phrasing with spoken word rhythms, grappling with historical and political injustice, and personal and societal longing. High points include his lyric contributions to classic Wayne Shorter and Jaco Pastorius tunes, tributes to writers Toni Morrison and Franz Wright, and poetic twists on Pérez's own compositions. "It's a more considered and measured album that you might not immediately apprehend," Elling says. "It has mysteries within it."