Kurt Elling

Released February 8, 2011

Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Vocal Album 2012

Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2011

Jazzweek No1 Year End Jazz Chart 2011

YouTube: https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nCzXOvL0TAgfXzgCWViM1M5c2OGGUVJPQ

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/4igOl9xIgLE1Q1OhfF5YhN?si=18aS1POSQ7OvNhNpl7hM6g


The New York Times is one of numerous publications to declare that Kurt Elling is the “standout male vocalist of our time,” and The Gate, Elling’s follow-up to his Grammy-winning Dedicated to You, is among his strongest albums – and perhaps the finest of his career.
Produced by Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan), The Gate is a musical collection in which boundaries cease to exist, a sensibility enhanced by producer Don Was, who had expressed the desire to work with Elling – an opportunity which Elling found irresistible.

“I first heard Kurt on the local jazz station and was knocked out by his exotic blend of soul, technique, intelligence and charismatic hipness,” Was recalls. “He made this diverse collection of songs his own – and we had a blast.”

“What Don brought to this project,” said Elling, “was his love of music and musicians, and a confidence that liberated us from all concern. He is the consummate producer and this was an extraordinary experience – my favorite in a studio.”

The Gate points Elling in a new and satisfyingly emotional direction. He has somehow found a way to make a deeply personal statement out of the music of King Crimson, Joe Jackson, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles – in addition to providing a new and vibrant understanding of Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock.

That Elling is first and foremost a jazz singer makes the work searching and enthralling. His phrasing is cool and meditative as he ventures into areas usually reserved for instrumentalists. As a lyricist, Elling breathes new life into gems previously known only for their melodies. “His words are informed by a powerful poetic spirit,” said poet and Bollingen Prize winner Robert Creeley. “Kurt Elling takes us into a world of sacred particulars.”

The Gate features longtime associate Laurence Hobgood on piano, Bob Mintzer on sax, John McLean on guitar, John Patitucci on bass, and two drummers, Terreon Gulley and Kobie Watkins – in addition to percussionist Lenny Castro. Said Elling, “The musicians on this recording inspired me to be… better.”

Elling developed his four-octave baritone in church choirs and later emerged on the national jazz scene in 1995 when Blue Note released Close Your Eyes. He made his Concord Records debut in 2007 with Nightmoves. All eight of his albums have been nominated for Grammys.

The Gate closes with a song that represents Elling’s continued dedication to exploring jazz’s past and blazing a trail for its future. Composed by the late Don Grolnick, “Nighttown, Lady Bright” features spoken words written by Duke Ellington and additional lyrics by Elling, who wished to close the album with a cinematic depiction of a jazz musician’s life.

Said The Washington Post, “Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling. With his soaring vocal flights, his edgy lyrics and sense of being on a musical mission, he has come to embody the creative spirit in jazz.” That spirit is in rich evidence on The Gate – and a musical feast awaits those who pass through.

Track Listing:

1. Matte Kudasai (Adrian Belew / Bill Bruford / Robert Fripp / Tony Levin) 4:19

2. Steppin’ Out (Joe Jackson) 4:48

3. Come Running to Me (Herbie Hancock / Allee Willis) 6:06

4. Norwegian Wood (John Lennon / Paul McCartney) 5:39

5. Blue in Green (Miles Davis / Al Jarreau / Frank Martin) 6:48

6. Samurai Cowboy (Kurt Elling / Marc Johnson) 3:24

7. After the Love Has Gone (Bill Champlin / David Foster / Jay Graydon) 5:51

8. Golden Lady (Stevie Wonder) 5:47

9. Nighttown, Lady Bright (Kurt Elling / Don Grolnick) 9:00


Kurt Elling: voice

Bob Mintzer: tenor saxophone

John McLean: guitar

Laurence Hobgood: piano

John Patitucci: bass

Terreon Gulley: drums and percussion (1, 2-5, 8, 9)

Kobie Watkins: drums (2, 5, 7)

Lenny Castro: percussion (2, 3, 5, 6)

Recorded March 15 – 17, 2010, at Sear Sound, New York, NY; Village Studios, Los Angeles, CA

Produced by Don Was

Co-Produced by Kurt Elling and Laurence Hobgood

Executive Producer: Chris Dunn


Since the 1990s, Kurt Elling has proved a most innovative jazz singer. His recordings — particularly The Messenger, Man in the Air, and Nightmoves — also reveal him to be a modern jazz visionary. On The Gate, Elling presents nine songs gathered from rock, pop, soul, and jazz. Produced by Don Was, Elling is accompanied by longtime pianist Laurence Hobgood, saxophonist Bob Mintzer, guitarist John McLean, bassist John Pattitucci, alternating drummers Terreon Gulley and Kobie Watkins, and percussionist Lenny Castro. The material here is evocative of Elling’s all encompassing view of jazz as an ever-innovative popular music. It opens with a subtle, deeply emotive and poetic reading of King Crimson’s “Matte Kudasai.” Commencing with only Patitucci’s upright bass before Gulley and Hobgood enter from the edges, Elling croons languidly at the upper reaches of his range. McLean’s guitar is used economically and delicately until his solo. Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out” extends beyond the realm of the author’s Cole Porter-influenced pop, transforming it into a warm, swinging, cool jazz number. The sparsity of Hobgood’s phrasing underscoring Elling’s voice shows remarkable restraint; Castro’s hand percussion counters Watkins’ hi-hat groove and makes it pop. Herbie Hancock’s “Come Running to Me” changes shape entirely, from its funky fretless bass and vocoder roots comes a bona fide soul-jazz midtempo ballad. Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady” backs off the funk; but the exacting interplay between Hobgood and Gulley keeps the soul intact; Elling reinvents it as an acoustic jazz ballad. The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” subtly restructures the tune’s rhythmic accents without forsaking a note of its melody. Earth, Wind & Fire’s “After the Love Has Gone” is transformed into a limpid, nearly ethereal tone poem. The reading of Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” is based on Al Jarreau’s arrangement, but it opens up more: space and texture grant his voice room to explore the melody’s interior. “Samurai Cowboy,” an original co-written with Marc Johnson, features Elling’s multi-tracked vocals in a chanted chorus, underscoring a syncopated blues, highlighted by Mintzer’s gritty fills. “Nighttown, Lady Bright” closes it as poetic, post-beat improvisation with Elling reciting as well as singing. The Gate presents Elling at the top of his game; it is a song cycle that is mesmerizing and mysterious as it is provocative and compelling.

Thom Jurek (AllMusic)