The more passionate fans of saxophonist Branford Marsalis might be disappointed with 'Upward Spiral' (Marsalis Music/Okeh Records) because this could be construed as a Kurt Elling vocalese CD with the quartet merely backing him up. Elling achieves a strong Chet Baker nodding-out-on-heroin style, true, and Branford is still one of today's greats, but the news of a new Branford was more exciting than actually listening to the new Branford.
Laurence Hobgood served as Musical Director for singer Kurt Elling from 1995 to 2013, traveling the world and composing, arranging and playing piano on 10 CDs. He won a 2009 Grammy for producing Elling's 'Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music Of Coltrane and Hartman.' For his first time as leader, Hobgood garnered two masters in bassist John Patitucci and drummer Kendrick Scott for 'Honor Thy Fathers' (Circumstantial Records), a tribute to those who mentored him and influenced him.
Every single one of singer Kurt Elling's 10 previous albums has been nominated for a Grammy Award (he won in 2009). Now comes album #11, 'Passion World,' five years in the making, a world music potpourri of intriguing images, melodies, sadness and surprise.
Soprano sweetheart Renée Fleming will be hosting "American Voices," a performance documentary that celebrates the best in American signing, on Thirteen’s "Great Performances" series. The 90-minute performance documentary offers an overview of the Kennedy Center's weekend-long American Voices festival, created and hosted by Renée Fleming in November 2013. This year's festival features stars and musicians from an array of different backgrounds, including Sara Bareilles, Kim Burrell, Kurt Elling, Ben Folds, Sutton Foster, Josh Groban, Alison Krauss, Norm Lewis, Eric Owens and Dianne Reeves. This event comes on the heels of Fleming’s performance of "Silver Bells" with Kelli O’Hara, which some felt fell flat of Fleming's normal performances, a mixed review of her rendition of the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII and an interesting interaction with Kiss at this year’s Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Despite the criticism, Fleming moves along with "American Voices," which allows camera crews to follow vocal masters, industry titans and emerging artist as they gather at the Kennedy Center to celebrate, explore and debate the legacy, landscape and future of American singing. The documentary will feature highlights from the festival's unique performances and educational events. Also featured are performances from the festival’s concert finale with Josh Groban, Sara Bareilles, Kurt Elling and Norm Lewis backed by the National Symphony Orchestra led by NSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke.