In 2001, Jazz Times called Kurt Elling "the thinking man's vocalist." Sure, the University of Chicago Divinity School dropout pens his own lyrics. But what sets Elling apart is his reverence for the ancient mystics, beat poets and French philosophers whose writings he incorporates into standards by Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon and other jazz legends. Elling's mastery of setting words to improvised jazz solos has led critics to compare him to Jon Hendricks, the originator of the art form. But don't be surprised if Elling busts out a pop tune tonight at the Folly Theater (300 West 12th Street). For his latest album, Nightmoves, he recorded the Guess Who's 1969 pop hit "Undun." The Kurt Elling Quartet performs tonight as part of the Folly Theater's Jazz Series. There's a preshow discussion with Elling at 7 p.m., and the performance begins at 8. Tickets cost $15, $24 and $30. Call 816-474-4444.
Folly Theater Fri., Dec. 14, 8 p.m., 2007