The buzz about Ellen Johnson keeps getting stronger with her latest release, “These Days”. Johnson began her performing career in Chicago singing everything from folk, pop, blues, jazz, musical theater, and classical repertoire. She has sung and studied with many exceptional musicians including Louie Bellson, Bobby McFerrin, Sheila Jordan, Charles McPherson, Roy McCurdy, Pete Christlieb, John Clayton, Don Braden, Kim Richmond, Willie Pickens, Gene Aitken and many more. Her two jazz CD’s, “Too Good To Title” and “Chinchilla Serenade”, have received critical acclaim and international airplay even receiving Editors Choice in Cadence Magazine.
Her current CD, “These Days”, focuses on her love of bass and voice duets and features bassist extraordinaire, Darek Oles. It also features Sheila Jordan singing a duet with Ellen on her original composition, “The Crossing”, in special tribute to Ellen’s mentor and special friend. It is this kind of creativity, spontaneity and depth that inspires Ms. Johnson to stray from the pack and find inventive new ways to express herself as an artist. She writes lyrics and poetry, contributing to already published compositions from Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Rick Helzer, and others. Her poetry can be heard on “These Days” with a tribute to Sheila Jordan and a new project on the way. As an accomplished songwriter she received an award from Just Plain Folks at their 2002 music awards out of 100,000 songs for her original wordless composition “Chinchilla Serenade”.
After initiating her own media and record label, Vocal Visions, (in 1990), Ellen has expanded her company to include Vocal Visions Media Group. The media group is re-imagining the way record companies operate using the technology of the future. Her roster of artists along with an innovative way to market and encourage music sales and visibility is what makes this boutique indie label unique and trend setting. As a producer she has made 8 CD’s including publishing an instructional warm up and ear training CD for voice (with a new one on the way), and an original poetry and music CD. Bruce Crowther mentions her in the 1997 published book “Singing Jazz” for her jazz artistry and he includes her company in a group of independent record labels for which he gives recognition. Her other professional ventures include recording for jingles, film scores, and other projects not to mention collaborating with the great songwriter, Hugh Martin, who wrote about her singing abilities: “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 commented how good her renditions were in comparison. Ellen’s versatility for many styles of music 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.
Ms. Johnson, who has a Masters degree from San Diego State University in Vocal Performance has been on the voice faculties of the University of San Diego, the Old Globe Theatre’s Masters of Fine Arts program and has given master classes in vocal jazz at the University of Southern California. She was in the “Who’s Who of Americas Teachers 2002” and was a keynote speaker on the “Art Song of Duke Ellington” for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) international conference. She served as President and founder of the Jazz Vocal Coalition (JZVOC, www.jzvoc.org), past Jazz Editor for Singer&Musician Magazine, past president of the San Diego Chapter of NATS, and was the California vocal jazz representative for the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). She has been a panelist for several music industry and vocal conferences that included a variety of industry professionals and artists such as Alan Paul (Manhattan Transfer), Derek Sivers (CD Baby), Barbara Morrison, Jeff Weber, Bernard Bauer (Music Connection Magazine), Dito Godwin, Dr. Hans Von Leydon, Elisabeth Howard and others. Ellen is also a consultant and producer for other performing artists producing CD’s and demos for professionals and students and producing showcases and panels.
Ellen 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 also one of the featured singers at Birdland for the JZVOC/Singer Magazine event performing with Lee Musiker, Cameron Brown, and Billy Drummond. Ellen currently resides in the LA area where she maintains an active professional singing and acting career, conducts clinics and workshops, produces vocal projects, operates Vocal Visions Media Group and is an adjunct professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA. She can be contacted at her web site: www.ellenjohnson.net or www.vocalvisions.net.