On his new album 'The Questions', renowned jazz singer and vocalese artist Kurt Elling turns his attention to politics and the state of the world in which we live.
“First I want to confront, as much as I can, what I feel we're up against and confront it from my point of view,” Kurt explains.
“I'm not a protest singer as such, although there's plenty to protest; I can't create strictly from anger, though there's a lot to be angry about.
“My natural inclination is toward unification and toward a more transcendent experience, but what we have in front of us at this point is destructive in just about every way I can think of.
“What you have in the [United] States is obviously madness and specifically a xenophobic attack on immigrants that is based on racism, that is showing its face as true fascism.”
“It's tough to read the headlines every day and feel so powerless; I don't want to feel powerless and I don't want people of goodwill to feel powerless, so I am trying to do what I can to confront our moment in life and to put my shoulder to the wheel as much I can.”
'The Questions' was released at the end of March and Kurt says that although the live shows have been more serious than with his previous work, he feels the album is some of his strongest material that he and his band have put together.
“It's a more serious show than we've done in the past; it's a more serious overall set of material because of the obvious national and global concerns that I think we're all facing at this point,” he says.
“I've tried to take that seriously while at the same time providing maybe an antidote or two, emotionally speaking, to what we're facing. Maybe not as many laughs as usual, although there are laughs, and we're certainly having a brilliant time together as musicians.”
In response to the rise of nationalistic and anti-immigration sentiment among his countrymen, Kurt re-recorded Paul Simon's 'American Tune' for 'The Questions', the second time he's covered the song.
For Kurt, it's about doing what he can with what he's got to try and make a difference.
“What you have in the [United] States is obviously madness and specifically a xenophobic attack on immigrants that is based on racism, that is showing its face as true fascism, and this song specifically speaks and sings from the standpoint of an immigrant and the shameful ways in which my government at this point is treating perfectly legal people of goodwill.
“I find it outrageous and an affront to the ideals of our nation, an affront to compassion, an affront to the rule of law and an affront to my brothers and sisters.
“I can't just sit by as a citizen, let alone as someone who has what meagre platform I have, and not speak up on someone's behalf. I feel like 'American Tune' really does single out that area of tragedy that's happening in our nation.”
Kurt is bringing 'The Questions' to Australia for a national tour with his full working band and says the shows aren't as dire and confrontational as the material would suggest.
“It swings really hard, the band is kicking and of course we'll do things not only from this record, but I hope we'll do things that people have come to hope to hear from us,” he says.
“It's always great to be in Australia: the people are enthusiastic, smart, wonderful, vivacious and energetic; the coffee is unparalleled, the women are fantastically beautiful, the conversations are lively and I couldn't be happier about the way I'm treated when I come down.”
Kurt Elling Tour DatesSun 27 May - The Gov (Adelaide)
29 May-3 Jun - Bird's Basement (Melbourne)
Wed 6 Jun - Astor Theatre (Perth)
Thu 7 Jun - Canberra Southern Cross Club
Fri 8 Jun - City Recital Hall (Sydney)
Sat 9 Jun - The Tivoli Theatre (Brisbane)