ELLEN STARR: vocalist, jazz pianist, arranger, songwriter
Born in Brooklyn, the multifaceted Ellen Starr has long been a mainstay of the New York jazz scene. She has performed in many of New York top jazz clubs including 55Bar and Sweet Rhythm, leading her own quartet featuring Joel Frahm on tenor sax, Alvester Garnett on drums, and Paul Beaudry on bass.
Her original tune "Starrburst" was recorded by Houston Person on "Blue Odyssey" for Prestige Records, with Cedar Walton on piano. The song has been published in the “Real Easy Book, Tunes for Intermediate Improvisers, Vol.2,” by the Stanford Jazz Workshop (Sher Music).
Ellen began her performance career as a jazz pianist and singer, but became active in the worlds of pop music, radio and TV advertising. She wrote an award winning Pepsi jingle, “Pepsi People Feeling Free,” later used in Spike Lee's film “Crooklyn.” She also arranged an album for Aretha Franklin for Columbia Records, “Today I Sing the Blues.”
Working in New York's recording studios as composer, arranger, pianist and jingle singer alongside such people as Barry Manilow, Valerie Simpson and Melissa Manchester, she arranged a tune for Ronnie Dyson that reached the charts at #8. The song was “Why Can't I Touch You?” from the musical “Hair.” She also played in the pit orchestra in such Broadway musicals as “Promises, Promises,” and “Hair.”
Ellen has composed scores for two Off-Broadway musicals: (1) “One Step at A Time,” music by Ellen Starr and Kevin Gavin; lyrics and book by Kevin Gavin and Wayne Lammers; (2) “Upon My Word,” music by Ellen Starr, lyrics and book by Alec Coiro. Both shows have been produced and performed multiple times.
Ellis is a graduate of Oberlin College, where she majored in music. She studied jazz with Stanley Cowell, Barry Harris and Kenny Barron.
Recently, she relocated to the San Francisco Bay area, where she now performs, records and teaches. To mark the occasion of her cross-country move, Dancing Spirit Records has just released Ellen's debut jazz CD, Lucky People, in which she is featured as vocalist, pianist, arranger and composer.
Here is what several noted jazz musicians and contemporary composers have to say about Ellen Starr:
"There are many 'good' singers but very few special ones...Ellen has a fantastic voice, she kicks butt as an arranger and pianist, has wonderful taste in repertoire, featuring songs by new composers...as well as re-presenting some of the standards...she's my personal nomination for talent deserving of wider recognition. (All About Jazz)
"Really fine vocal/instrumental jazz...Ellen Starr's singing is just lovely--no frills or b.s., very hornlike, intonation right on, and each song's feeling is beautifully conveyed. Her piano playing is excellent...really this is terrific--I'm just knocked out!”
(Marvin Stamm, jazz trumpeter)
"I love it! Your voice is beautiful, your piano is high on the 'taste meter,' and I like the arrangements."
(John di Martino, jazz pianist, arranger and composer.)
"Ellen Starr is truly a great musician. This CD will rank among the jazz greats: Her singing is sublime, with a huge range and a rainbow of colors, she is the perfect performer for the repertoire she has chosen. Her arrangements are original and startling, and her pianistic skills complete a picture of one the 21st century's great performers. The backup band is more than first rate. This is an album to play again and again.”
(John Corigliano, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer; Prof. of Composition; Julliard School of Music)
"It's a rare thing to experience a jazz pianist who sings so beautifully, and a singer who really plays the piano, all embodied in one person. That's Ellen Starr."
(Stanley Cowell, jazz pianist , composer and educator at Rutger's University.)
"This CD blew me away. As a vocalist, Ellen Starr sounds like Carmen McRae and Diana Krall combined. She's a virtuoso singer with a huge range and perfect pitch. She's got low tones with the sultriness of Nina Simone. As a pianist, Starr reminds me of the amazing Kenny Baron. And, as an arranger, she's as skillful and imaginative as Bill Evans. What a versatile talent! Surrounding her in this fascinating collection of jazz standards and originals are three top New York musicians: Paul Beaudry, bass; Alvester Garnett, drums; and Joel Frahm, tenor and soprano sax. Their solos are incandescent flights of fancy. Where has Starr been hiding? Her bio reveals she's played in New York jazz clubs for decades. How is it possible that such an accomplished singer and jazz musician is only now making her CD debut? For devotees of great jazz, this CD is the real deal. [Isabelle Chapuis, Prof. of Flute (retired); School of Music, San Jose State University; San Jose, CA; studio musician)
"Lucky People," Ellen's debut CD, can be auditioned and purchased on CD Baby at:
My Jazz Story
I love jazz because it speaks to me.