Kurt Elling is an unabashedly political artist. When he joined the OWL Trio in the studio to record his guest vocals for this record, we were on a tight schedule to make sure Kurt could make it to the protest uptown later that day. The songs on this record are dark, and Kurt is blunt about his own relationship to the material. “These are dark times,” he says.
Kurt first heard the OWL Trio (Orlando le Fleming, Will Vinson and Lage Lund) at a little club in Brooklyn called “Seeds.” One of only a handful of people in the audience, he was blown away by the “sensitivity and intelligence” of the group. In dark times, a sensitive approach can be liberating. Creating a moment to come together in darkness can provide a sense of comfort—we are all sharing in a similar experience.
These lines from Kurt’s recent bio really spoke to me: “The approach of jazz itself is a form of protest. The collegiality, the mutual support, the democratic; everybody gets a say and if you take a single member out there’s an essential ingredient missing. It’s not a complete community until everybody’s in their right and mutually supportive place.”
The listener can hear in this intimate album the same ambience and intellectual curiosity that appealed to Kurt in that small Brooklyn club. In this drumless and pristine supportive context, Kurt, by his own admission has “nowhere to hide.” In this music, a “whisper will carry instead of a shout” and Kurt doesn’t need to blazingly proclaim his intentions—he can simply let them glow.
-- Elan Mehler, Newvelle Artistic Director and Co-Founder