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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 8, 2009

Kurt Elling is joined by Ernie Watts for Jan. 24 Coltrane/Hartman tribute

Kurt Elling, called "the preeminent male jazz singer of our time" by CD Review, will be joined versatile saxophonist Ernie Watts in "Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings Coltrane/Hartman" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, in the historic Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City.

The concert, presented by Hancher Auditorium, will revisit and reinterpret songs from the 1963 collaboration between John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. The album was the influential saxophonist's sole collaboration with a vocalist and is considered one of the most romantic albums ever recorded.

The Laurence Hobgood Trio (Elling's regular band) and the post-classical string quartet ETHEL will back Elling and Watts with lush new settings of the classic material.

Elling has been a multiple winner for Best Male Singer in both the downbeat and JazzTimes polls -- topping each poll for six consecutive years. During a 10-year stretch, he attracted seven Grammy Award nominations while also winning three Jazz Journalists' Association Awards for Best Male Vocalist and the Prix Billie Holiday from the Academie du Jazz in Paris. He was the artist-in-residence for the Monterrey Jazz Festival's 2006 season.

Playboy Magazine named Elling "the male Jazz vocalist of the Nineties," and more recently the Guardian declared, "Elling is an omnicompetent artist of almost ruthless efficiency . . . (He) is truly a musical phenomenon." Jazz Review in the U.K. raised the possibility that "Elling may be the greatest male jazz singer of all time."

The natural heir to jazz pioneers Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure and Jon Hendricks, Elling is also the contemporary voice in vocalese, setting the improvised solos of Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, Dexter Gordon, Pat Metheny and others to his own distinctive lyrics.

Grammy winner Watts' remarkably eclectic résumé runs the gamut from Steely Dan, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and Frank Zappa to Charlie Haden's Quartet West, Pat Metheny, Canonball Adderley and the Buddy Rich Big Band. In a diverse career that has spanned more than 40 years, he has been featured on more than 500 recordings by artists in jazz, rock and fusion, and has released 15 solo recordings.

Kirk Silsbee of LA CityBeat wrote, "The virtues we've come to associate with Watts include fertile harmonic imagination, a beautiful Trane-soaked-in-wine tone, the blowtorch cry, rippling cadenzas and the ability to swing at any tempo."

Everyone knows John Coltrane, whose influence reaches far beyond the saxophone and beyond jazz, but baritone jazz singer Johnny Hartman was an artist underappreciated in his lifetime. But thanks to the soundtrack for the film "The Bridges of Madison County" and the CD era his artistry has been introduced to new generations of appreciative listeners.

The Coltrane/Hartman recording of "Lush Life" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000, and Hartman was posthumously inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

Tickets for the Jan. 24 performance are $45/40/35; students $40.50/15; senior citizens $40.50/36/31.50; youth 31.50/28/24.50. Until the Hancher box office resumes its regular business hours on Jan. 13, tickets can be ordered online at

Beginning Jan. 13, the box office will be open for phone or walk-up business in Suite 107 in the south building of the Lindquist Center, at the corner of Madison and Burlington Streets, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Parking is available in the metered lot by the UI Main Library on Madison Street, or in the Old Capitol Town Center parking ramp at the corner of Clinton and Burlington Streets.

From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at

Any remaining tickets will be available for sale one hour before show time at the Englert Theatre box office.

The concert is supported by Phillip E. and Jo Lavera Jones, and Darlene and Michael McNulty, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell), 319-338-4274 (home),

PHOTOS are available at