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Kurt Elling to Debut Noir Drama at Jazz at Lincoln Center

The Big Blind is a throwback to what the celebrated vocalist describes as "theater of the imagination"

Kurt Elling (photo: Anna Webber c/o Sony Music)
Kurt Elling (photo: Anna Webber c/o Sony Music)

Lauded singer Kurt Elling will debut his long-in-the-works noir musical drama, The Big Blind, at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater in New York on Mar. 1 and 2.

Elling cowrote the work with Grammy-winning songwriter Phil Galdston and stars in it as an up-and-coming jazz singer with uncertain career prospects in 1950s Chicago. “At this point in my career, I want to reach for as much as I can, and this show has given me a way to stretch my imagination,” Elling said in a press release.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center performances, which will be presented in the style of a radio drama complete with onstage sound effects—a throwback to what the vocalist describes as “the theater of the imagination”—feature an all-star cast, including Ben Vereen, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Allison Semmes, and Foley artist Jeff Ward. Its score contains eight new songs written by Elling and Galdston, plus selected jazz classics—including pieces by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Joe Zawinul, and Wayne Shorter—that have been given new lyrics by the songwriting team. A 23-piece orchestra will perform the music, led by trumpeter Guy Barker and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr.

The Big Blind has been a passion project of mine for more than 10 years,” Elling said. “This story is my way of embracing the history of the city I love and the club that gave me a platform.”

Before each performance, a pre-concert discussion will take place at 7 p.m. in the Agnes Varis and Karl Leichtman Studio in JALC’s Irene Diamond Education Center. The Mar. 1 performance, which begins at 8 p.m., will also be streamed live on Facebook and on the web.

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Originally Published