Just remember that the day will come
When you will just be steak on a plate
(Don't 'cha know, it's fate)
Kurt Elling, "Sing You Sinners"
A great new singer. His vocalese lyrics are great, his "rants"
(improvised tune and words) are interesting, and he and his
collaborators can make old warhorses sound fresh and exciting.
Actually, the collaborators need a note, especially on his second and
fourth albums. Perhaps it's just too much listening to vocalese, but I'd
gotten used to the instrumental accompaniment being mostly just a simple
rhythm section. With Kurt and the Laurence Hobgood Trio, this is not
the case. It's more like, say, the old Brubeck Quartet, with Kurt taking
Paul Desmond's place. He has the bulk of the solos, but the band has a
real personality, and you get neat things like Kurt vamping under a
All four mainstream releases have been Grammy-nominated.
- Close Your Eyes (1995, Blue Note)
- "Close Your Eyes"
- "Dolores Dream" The vocal introduction and coda is a
vocalese based on Wayne Shorters's solo introduction from
the 1977 VSOP version of "Dolores".
- "Ballad of the Sad Young Men"
- "(Hide the) Salome" Elling lyrics
- "Married Blues"
- "Storyteller Experiencing Total Confusion" Elling lyrics
with a Jim Heynen poem interpolated
- "Never Say Goodbye (for jodi)" Elling lyrics
- "Those Clouds Are Heavy, You Dig?" Elling vocalese on Paul
Desmond's solo from Brubeck (Quartet?) recording of "Balcony
Rock". One of the album's standouts.
- "Wait 'Till You See Her"
- "Hurricane" Elling lyrics
- "Now It Is time That Gods Came Walking Out"
- "Never Never Land" Elling improv lyrics in body -- I really
like this track.
- "Remembering Veronica"
- The Messenger (1997, Blue Note)
- "Nature Boy"
- "April in Paris" Nifty version of the old chestnut.
- "The Beauty of All Things" Excellent Elling rant.
- "The Dance" Short instrumental
- "Prayer for Mr. Davis" Elling lyrics on a tribute to Miles.
- "Endless" Elling rant.
- "Tanya Jean" A ten minute long Elling vocalese on a Dexter
Gordon solo. (Album is reported to be One Flight
Up.) Spectacular -- half the time I listen to this,
I rewind and listen to it again right away.
- "It's Just a Thing" Elling homage to those annoying Lord
Buckley spoken things. However, this doesn't strike me as
annoying anymore. Weird.
- "Ginger Bread Boy"
- "Prelude to a Kiss"
- "Time of the Season"
- "The Messenger" Elling lyrics
- This Time It's Love (1998, Blue Note)
- "My Foolish Heart"
- "Too Young to go Steady"
- "I Feel So Smoochie"
- "Freddie's Yen For Jen" Elling vocalese on Freddie Hubbard's
"Delphia" from Red Clay.
- "My Love, Effendi" Elling lyrics (?)
- "Where I Belong" Elling original lyrics (rant?)
- "The Very Thought of You"
- "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing" Cute Irving
Berlin piece, with Elling using overdubbing to make himself
- "Rosa Morena"
- "She's Funny That Way" includes Elling vocalese on a Lester
- "A Time For Love"
- "Every Time We Say Goodbye"
- Live in Chicago (2000, Blue Note)
- "My Foolish Heart" Much longer than the This Time It's
Love version, this one contains an extended section
based on a poem by St. John of the Cross.
- "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" The coda is a new Elling vocalese
based on a Keith Jarrett recording of the song.
- "Oh My God"
- "Night Dream" Another long Elling vocalese (8:55), this one
based on the Wayne Shorter original.
- "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons"
- "Esperanto" Elling vocalese based on Vince Mendoza's
- "Don't Get Scared" An older vocalese I'm not familiar with.
Jon Hendricks guests to sing the words King Pleasure wrote;
Kurt sings the words Jon Hendricks wrote.
- "Goin' To Chicago" The Jon Hendricks vocalese version,
with Jon guesting again.
- "The Rent Party" Another of those weird spoken things.
- Live in Chicago -- Out Takes (2000, Blue Note)
This album of things taped in the Live in Chicago
sets but not used at that album. It's only available in
Australia and at Kurt's live performances, though Amazom.com
will import it for you.
- "Resolution" Exciting new Elling vocalese on the John
Coltrane piece from A Love Supreme.
- "What I meant To Say Was..." Nice Hobgood ad lib piano solo.
- "Moon and Sand" Inspired by Keith Jarrett, it says, whatever
- "Dolores Dream"
including "An Extemporaneous Prolegomenon to Any Future
Extraneous Thought on The Subject of Mirrors"
The vocalese from Close Your Eyes with a
new, long, funny spoken piece in the middle.
- "Renaissance of the Resistance" Kahil El'Zabar piece.
- "Senor Blues 2000 (the Alien Version)" A weird studio piece
tacked on as a bonus track.
I caught their second set at the Bird of Paradise on March 6, 1998. Kurt
and the band both come off even better live. From memory, the setlist
was something like this:
It was great fun, and I'd highly recommend them if you like this sort of
thing. Kurt's voice seemed stronger and richer live, and the band
played an even more active role in the proceedings.
- Trio plays something I don't know, with a real nice piano solo.
- "Tanya Jean" -- no head or coda, but he nailed the solo.
- One of those (mock?) Kerouac things. (Referred to in the
This Time It's Love liner notes, I see, as "his
thus-far unrecorded tribute to Lord Buckley." Unless
there's yet another of these?)
- "I Feel So Smoochie"
- A really nice new Elling/Hobgood number for Elling's wife.
Now that I have the new album, I believe this was "Where I
- "Billie's Bounce" The Jefferson vocalese version. I think
I liked Kurt's rendition better than Eddie's. With a nice
long scat solo as well.
- "Polka Dots and Moonbeams"
- A bunch of scatty things I didn't recognize
- Encore was a subdued Elling/Hobgood duet whose name and
lyrics I've completely forgotten.
I caught their first set at the Bird of Paradise on July 7th, 2000.
Great show. The setlist included
I regret not having the time to stay for the second set. I think I could
watch these guys every month and not grow tired of them.
- Trio plays into.
- "Resolution" -- Great new vocalese on the Out
- "Not While I'm Around" -- from Sweeny Todd. I want
a recording of this.
- "I Feel So Smoochie" incorporating "The Jerk". Amazingly
funny reading of a funny poem. I'd kill for a recording of this!
- "April in Paris"
- "Night Dreamer"
June 28th, 2001, found Kurt and the gang back in Ann Arbor, this time as
part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. Frank Parker, Jr has taken over
as the quartet's drummer, and seemed to fit in well. Kurt just seems to
keep getting better -- though it certainly didn't hurt that he did my
two favorites ("Resolution" and "Tanya Jean").
The setlist included
as well as piano and drum solos.
- "Too Young to go Steady"
- A Kerouac spoken-word thing.
- "Tanya Jean"
- "Orange Blossoms in Summer" -- nice piece from the upcoming
- "April in Paris"
The Manhattan Transfer's Swing.
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