Thursday, March 03, 2005

"Night Dreamer" by Kurt Elling

This song is from the album "Live in Chicago". The original piece was written for a jazz ensemble with trumpet solo, however Kurt is only a "mere" vocalist. So how can he perform this piece? Easy! Take the trumpet solo and write his own lyrics and meld the two into an amazing vocal line. The only accompaniment he has behind him are a piano, bass and a drum kit. The drum keeps time, never wavering from our triple meter, while the bassline walks around, meandering between chord arpeggiations, and the piano plays out the accompaniment. This is a true power vocal number, as Kurt takes syncopation and non-chord tones easily in stride. His voice truly turns into an instrument, blasting out stratospheric high notes with power and control, while sweetly crooning out the lower register. This song has many repeated sections, somewhat disjointed, but held together by the line of the melody. The first two "verses" are the same line, repeated. Then we have a transitional section, where the piano drops out and we have Elling show off his virtuosic talent, moving just like a trumpet, rhyming words together in strings of incredible vocal agility, then flying up to a High G in falsetto (above the treble clef) and bringing it back down, spitting out syllables fast and furious, just like a trumpet cadenza. It's so amazing to hear a vocalist do something so extraordianry with his voice that you are left speechless. Eventually the piano wanders back into the piece, playing through the verse riff once more before taking it's own long solo, flying up and down scales, and trying to match Elling extraordinary passage for extraordinary passage. Suddenly we seem out of sync as the drums stretch the meter into 4. Nothing to worry about, as it's simply the drum solo. The solo keeps flowing over itself, as the syncopations seem to be like rocks holding back a raging stream, eventually the pent-up beats drown the beat like a waterfall. When Elling returns we return to our initial melody, only doubled in tempo, as Kurt frantically solos one final time, his rapid-fire delivery never dropping a beat. Now it slowly ritards to our original tempo as the initial lyrics return for one final verse, resolving everything back to where we started and fading away.

I can't even begin to describe the awesome power of this piece. I did not know the human voice was capable of the things Elling makes sound so effortless...I would love to play this piece sometime in class, just so everyone can bask in its wonder.

Going back, I should have included that the original is written by Wayne Shorter...

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