GRAMMY winner Kurt Elling is among the world’s foremost jazz vocalists. He won the DownBeat Critics Poll for fourteen consecutive years and was named “Male Singer of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions. An international jazz award winner, he has also been GRAMMY nominated a dozen times.
Elling’s rich baritone spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which are springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word and poetry.
The New York Times declared, “Elling is the standout male vocalist of our time.” The Washington Post added, “Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling. With his soaring vocal flights, his edgy lyrics and sense of being on a musical mission, he has come to embody the creative spirit in jazz.”
Elling was the Artist-in-Residence for the Singapore and Monterey Jazz Festivals. He has also written multi-disciplinary works for The Steppenwolf Theatre and the City of Chicago. The Obama Administration’s first state dinner featured Elling in a command performance.
Elling is a renowned artist of vocalese – the writing and performing of words over recorded improvised jazz solos. The natural heir to jazz pioneers Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure and Jon Hendricks, Elling has set his own lyrics to the improvised solos of Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. He often incorporates images and references from writers such as Rilke, Rumi, Neruda and Proust into his work. The late poet and Bollingen Prize winner Robert Creeley wrote, “Kurt Elling takes us into a world of sacred particulars. His words are informed by a powerful poetic spirit.” Said Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate of the United States, “In Kurt Elling’s art, the voice of jazz gives a new spiritual presence to the ancient, sweet and powerful bond between poetry and music.”
Kurt Elling has toured vigorously throughout his career, thrilling audiences throughout the world. In that time he has led his own ensemble and has collaborated with many of the world’s finest orchestras.
Bassist Nick Tucker is an active freelance musician in central and southern Indiana. In addition to his duties at Eastern Illinois University, Nick performs extensively in all areas of music. He performs with numerous jazz, Latin, and rock groups in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and throughout the Midwest. He has performed with Rich Perry, Alan Pasqua, Steve Allee, Brent Wallarab, Jason Tiemann, Mark Buselli, Luke Gillespie, and Randy Brecker. Nick has performed all over the United States, as well as in Rome; Bologna; Venice; Rosiario, Argentina; Kremünster, Austria; and Vienna. Nick holds a Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies and Music Recording/Technology from the University of Indianapolis and a master’s degree in Jazz Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. In 2011, Nick was among 15 young talented jazz musicians invited to the Stean’s Institute Jazz Program at Ravinia where he studied with David Baker, Curtis Fuller, Rufus Reid, and Nathan Davis.
With over 20 years experience on the local and national musical scenes, Kenny Phelps has developed a unique and valuable perspective on music. Playing and recording with musical giants such as BeBe & CeCe Winan, Walter Hawkins, El Debarge, Pharez Whitted, Roy Merriweather, Sly Hampton and George Duke has launched him into a respected spotlight in the music industry. He also has over 19 years of experience as a motivational speaker in schools, churches, and youth organizations. Rooted in the basic tradition of his craft, he has developed communication skills necessary to deliver a message that goes far beyond the music.
Buselli–Wallarab Jazz Orchestra
Consisting of 17 pieces, the Buselli Wallarab Jazz Orchestra includes many of the top freelance jazz artists in the Midwest. These artists have decades of performance experience between them, such as appearances with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the Artie Shaw Orchestra, the Benny Goodman Tribute Band, Natalie Cole, Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman, as well as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The late jazz icon J.J. Johnson called the BWJO, “A marvelous new band with exceptional soloists and some of the most creative and satisfying writing I’ve heard in a long time.”
BWJO co-founders Mark Buselli and Brent Wallarab are respected educators, as well as accomplished musicians and composers. Their common commitment to America’s jazz heritage brought the BWJO to life and helped define the mission of the organization.
Since 1991, Brent Wallarab has been lead trombonist with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the jazz orchestra in residence at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History in Washington, DC. As lead trombonist, he specializes in recreating the entire spectrum of jazz brass styles. In 1992, Wallarab was appointed Specialist in Jazz for the Smithsonian Institution and serves as transcriber, researcher, editor, and advisor for the Smithsonian’s extensive jazz program. He has transcribed and edited over 300 masterworks for jazz orchestra and is considered one of the leading authorities on historical composition for jazz orchestras such as Duke Ellington, Sy Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, and Gil Evans. He has been instrumental is cataloguing and identifying many pieces from the Ellington archives housed at the Smithsonian Institution.
Former Kenton composer Bill Russo has called upon Wallarab to rehearse, guest conduct and solo with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. Wynton Marsalis has called upon Wallarab to transcribe and arrange for The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and for the “Essentially Ellington” educational program.
Wallarab is in demand for his ability as a composer and arranger in many styles. His orchestral arrangements have been performed by the New York Pops Orchestra and the Miami Symphony Orchestra. His Jazz arrangements have been performed and recorded by Bobby Short, J. J. Johnson, Illinois Jacquet, Benny Carter, Jon Hendricks, Wynton Marsalis, James Moody, and others.
Brent Wallarab is currently an assistant professor of jazz studies at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
Mark is head of Jazz Studies at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Voted teacher of the year in the music school at Butler University for 2004-2005 season Mark was also the 2001 director of the Indiana All State Jazz ensemble. He also received a Creative Renewal grant from the Indianapolis Arts Council for 2005 to go to NYC and study arranging and composition with well-known artists. He is a clinician for the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation, Conn/Selmer, and a member of BMI, and IAJE.
Buselli has appeared on numerous recordings as a sideman. Mark has worked with the Artie Shaw band, the Benny Goodman tribute band, Natalie Cole, Vic Damone, Makoto Ozone, Phil Wilson, David Baker, Herb Pomeroy, Tony Malaby, Chuck Marohnic, Slam Stewart, Al Cobine, and Dominic Spera.
Mr. Buselli graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass.