Ellen Johnson - Author

Short Version (300 + words)

Ellen Johnson’s knowledge of the jazz world is a result of her more than 35 years experience and devotion to music as a professional jazz recording artist, educator, songwriter, lyricist, author, and publicist. Johnson has performed, recorded and studied with many exceptional musicians including; Charles McPherson, Louie Bellson, Bobby McFerrin, Sheila Jordan, Jay Clayton, Don Braden, Willie Pickens, Roy McCurdy, Billy Drummond, Cameron Brown, John Stowell, Larry Koonse, John Clayton, Marcos Silva, Roland Wyatt and Marni Nixon. Described by Jazz Journal International Magazine as “superior jazz singing by an artist of the highest quality,” Johnson has four solo jazz CD’s that include: Form and formless, These Days, Chinchilla Serenade and Too Good To Title. These Days, called a “sophisticated and successful album that raises the standard of modern jazz singing by at least one notch (All About Jazz), features a duet with legendary vocalist Sheila Jordan.

Johnson recently completed Jordan’s biography, Jazz Child: Portrait of Sheila Jordan published by Rowman and Littlefield. She has published lyrics to the Sonny Rollins well known composition, “St. Thomas” and three Charles Mingus compositions: “Peggy’s Blue Skylight,” “Nostalgia In Times Square” and “Noddin Ya Head Blues.” Through her own companies, Vocal Visions and Sound Visions Media, Johnson promotes and produces films (And Rosemary Is For Remembrance documentary), recordings, and music instructional products including, The Vocal Warm Up CD, Vocal Builders and You Sing Jazz.  

Johnson holds a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from San Diego State University, BM in Vocal Performance from the American Conservatory of Music, and further studies at the University of Humanistic Studies, UCLA Extension courses in the Music Business Certificate Program. She has served on the voice faculties of the University of San Diego, Old Globe Theatre’s MFA program, California Polytechnic University Pomona, the Jazzschool at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley and has given master classes throughout the United States. 

 

Long Version (1,000 + words)

Ellen Johnson’s knowledge of the jazz world is a result of her more than 35 years experience and devotion to music as a professional jazz recording artist, educator, songwriter, author, and publicist. Johnson has performed, recorded and studied with many exceptional musicians including; Charles McPherson, Louie Bellson, Bobby McFerrin, Sheila Jordan, Jay Clayton, Don Braden, Willie Pickens, Roy McCurdy, Billy Drummond, Cameron Brown, John Stowell, Larry Koonse, Rick Helzer, John Clayton, Gene Aitken, Marcos Silva, and Marni Nixon. Described by Jazz Journal International Magazine as “superior jazz singing by an artist of the highest quality,” Johnson has four solo jazz CD’s that include: Form and formless (to be released in 2014), These Days, Chinchilla Serenade and Too Good To Title. These Days, called “one of the best albums to be heard from a no-nonsense jazz singer” (Downbeat) and a “sophisticated and successful album that raises the standard of modern jazz singing by at least one notch (All About Jazz), features a duet with legendary vocalist Sheila Jordan. Johnson recently completed Jordan’s biography entitled, Jazz Child: Portrait of Sheila Jordan published by Rowman and Littlefield in the near future. Her concerts and clinics on the vocal music of Charles Mingus have been received with enthusiasm being performed at the California Jazz Conservatory, during the 2011 Ojai Music Festival activities and other venues.

     In the 1980’s Johnson formed the company Vocal Visions Records promoting and producing jazz recordings and music instructional products, including her own educational publications, The Warm Up CD, Vocal Builders and You Sing Jazz. She has published lyrics to the Sonny Rollins well known composition, “St. Thomas” and three Charles Mingus compositions: “Peggy’s Blue Skylight,” “Nostalgia In Times Square” “Slippers” and “Noddin Ya Head Blues.” In 2002 Johnson received a best jazz composition award from Just Plain Folks out of 100,000 songs submitted for her original wordless composition “Chinchilla Serenade.” That same year she co-founded and became the president of the Jazz Vocal Coalition (JZVOC), the first jazz singers collective non-profit organization that provided promotion, education, support and social networking to jazz singers throughout the United States with chapters in Los Angeles, New York and Minnesota.

     Her other professional ventures include recording for jingles, film scores, and other projects not to mention collaborating with the highly respected songwriter, Hugh Martin, who wrote, “I’m at a loss for words to praise your voice. It deserves adjectives that haven’t been invented yet regarding its beauty of tone, range, and perfect intonation.” She has been a featured soloist for many performances of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts filling the shoes of soloist Alice Babs so well that even the late Stanley Dance wrote how good her renditions were in comparison. Johnson’s vocal versatility contributed to her winning a finalist slot in the American Traditions Vocal Competition where she performed jazz, musical theater and classical renditions of songs for a prestigious panel of judges that included Della Reese, Charles Strouse, William Warfield, George Shirley and others. Johnson has worked within the music industry as a publicist and promoter through her company, Sound Visions Media, where she has gained visibility for artists, authors, businesses and non-profit organizations. Serving as the jazz editor for Singer and Musician Magazine she wrote articles and interviews that included jazz luminaries like Nancy Wilson, Alan Paul and Andy Bey.

     Johnson’s own education includes a Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance from San Diego State University, BM in Vocal Performance from the American Conservatory of Music, course work towards a PhD from the University of Humanistic Studies, UCLA Extension courses in the Music Business Certificate Program and she has been on the voice faculties of the University of San Diego, the Old Globe Theatre’s MFA program, California Polytechnic University Pomona and has given master classes in vocal jazz at the University of Southern California as well as many other colleges. Johnson was the moderator of a panel at the 2004 IAJE Conference in New York entitled, “The Evolution of Solo Vocal Jazz Singing: Where are We Headed?” which featured Jay Clayton, Kurt Elling, Jon Hendricks, Sheila Jordan, Kitty Margolis and Mark Murphy. She was a keynote speaker on the “Art Song of Duke Ellington” and “The Art Song of Jazz” for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) international conferences, past president of the San Diego Chapter of NATS, and the California vocal jazz representative for the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). She currently teaches jazz vocal performance classes, improvisation and various workshops for the Jazzschool at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley, California.

    Johnson’s own research and studies on music healing, creativity and expressive arts therapy inspired her to complete training with Eric Maisel to become a Creativity Consultant and she teach workshops on “Using Vocal Improvisation To Encourage Creativity.”  Her current project Form and formless is targeted around the concept of the creative process and features renowned guitarists Larry Koonse and John Stowell. Johnson is a member of BMI, Jazz Journalists Association (JJA), Jazz Educators Network (JEN), National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), California Lawyers for the Arts (CLA), Creativity Coaching Association (CCA), and past member of the advisory board for  the Ojai Valley Defense Fund (OVDF). She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband (videographer, animation specialist and author) Jeff Foster and their Belgian Shepherd dog, Halona and a Palomino horse, Mysty. She can be contacted at: www.ellenjohnson.net.

 

Sheila Jordan

 All Music Guide says that vocalist Sheila Jordan is "one of the most consistently creative of all jazz singers." Setting the bar in jazz by being the first recorded jazz singer on the 1962 debut Blue Note recording Portrait of Sheila and “You Are My Sunshine with George Russell’s The Outer View. Jordan has since become an iconic jazz figure, influencing many other artists in the jazz vocal genre. The New York Times raves, "Her ballad performances are simply beyond the emotional and expressive capabilities of most other vocalists." Sheila has performed and recorded with some of the worlds greatest musicians spreading her message of love for the music of jazz wherever she travels.

Jordan’s singing began in Detroit during the 1940’s where she was initially inspired by Charlie Parker, her “musical guru” and dear friend. She honed her skills, sitting in with Parker and other musicians when they came to town to perform in the Bluebird, the Sudan and other local clubs. Moving to New York City in the early “50’s”, she sang in Greenwich Village clubs and at jam sessions with some of the city’s jazz giants, including Charles Mingus and Herbie Nichols, and studied with legendary pianist Lennie Tristano. After touring with trombonist Roswell Rudd in the late ‘70’s, Jordan became a founding member of the Steve Kuhn Quartet, where she met bassist Harvie S. (formerly known as Swartz). Soon afterward, she and Harvie formed one of the most innovative bass and voice duets where they both traveled extensively, both nationally and internationally. Her love for the bass continued with recordings and performances with bassist Cameron Brown and their most recent recordings, I’ve Grown Accustomed to the Bass, The Very Thought of Two, and Celebration – Live at the Triad (NYC).

For much of the last 30 years, Jordan, like her colleague Mark Murphy, has been extremely active in teaching young students the ropes of jazz singing, and has made her living by combination of touring and teaching. Sheila initiated the jazz vocal program at New York City’s City College, has been a faculty member of “Jazz in July” at the University of Massachusetts ((Amherst), visiting professor at Stanford University, taught at the New School for Social Research, Manhattan School of Music, Musica Hochschule in Graz, Austria and continues to teach workshops throughout the world. Sheila Jordan has appeared in festivals and clubs both nationally and internationally with rave reviews from critics even at the age of 86.

She received the NEA Jazz Master's Award in 2012 along with two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Lil Hardin Armstrong Jazz Heritage Award for Excellence and the IAJE Humanitarian Award as well as the New York City MAC Award and the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz for Lifetime of Service Award. Down Beat’s International Critics Poll has named her the winner of “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” honors nine times and has placed her among the top five singers in the “Established Talent” category every year since 1980. For more information about Ms Jordan go to: www.sheilajordanjazz.com.