255

Ellen Johnson: These Days

By

Sign in to view read count
Despite a terrific press reception to her work, jazz singer Ellen Johnson unfortunately is not the household word she should be. She has previously recorded two albums, Too Good To Title (1993) and Chinchilla Serenade (1997); These Days is her third.

Ellen Johnson, originally a Chicagoan, now lives and works in San Diego as an musician and educator. She teaches as part of the voice faculties of the University of San Diego and the Old Globe Theatre. Since the mid-1980s, Ellen Johnson has been conducting voice clinics and has performed special concerts of Duke Ellington's Sacred Music. At the 2004 IAJE Conference in New York, she moderated a panel discussion entitled "The Evolution of Vocal Jazz Singing: Where Are We Headed?"

These Days should be a clarion call to listeners unfamiliar with her previous contributions. Very much inspired by jazz vocal icon Sheila Jordan, who joins Johnson for two duets here, the well-rounded album displays multiple examples of jazz vocal styles. Beginning with a duet with bassist Derek Oles on Jackson Browne's "These Days," Johnson transforms the 1970s acoustic rock ballad into a meaningful jazz statement without compromising the lyrics or melody. Just like Cassandra Wilson, she picks material from another musical genre.

The same thing applies on Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where Time Goes," more often associated with Judy Collins. The song was originally presented in a spare guitar-accompanied delivery, and the substitution of Ole's bass for the guitar leaves the tune as powerful as it was in the late 1960s. Another tune, "I Feel The Same," was composed by Americana singer/songwriter Chris Smither, and three more duets with Oles will remind jazz vocal afficianados of the Sheila Jordan-Harvie Swartz collaborations over the ruins.

Johnson's ensemble is a most effective one. In addition to Derek Oles, guitarist Larry Koonse takes some tasty solo opportunities, provides bossa accompaniment on Jobim's "Esperanca Perdida," and also supplies the comping usually done on a piano. Sheila Jordan appears on "The Crossing" (her own composition) and "Little Messenger" (written for her by Johnson). The leader supplies a pure vocalese effort on "Inspiration" and shows her appreciation of the music of Charles Mingus on "Noddin' Ya Head Blues," with lyrics written with the permission of Sue Mingus, and "Nostalgia in Times Square," with lyrics supplied by the singer.

Unfortunately, the inner notes on this digipack release (including personnel and title information) are impossible to read without a magnifying glass.


Track Listing: These Days; No Moon At All; The Crossing(with Sheila Jordan); Inspiration; I Feel The Same; Noddin' Ya Head Blues; Esperanca Perdida; Who Know Where The Time Goes; If I Should Lose You; You Don't Know What Love Is; Nostalgia in Times Square; Little Messenger(for Sheila Jordan).

Personnel: Ellen Johnson: vocals; Derek Oles: bass; Larry Koonse: guitar; Roy McCurdy: drums; Ana Gazzola: percussion; Sheila Jordan: guest vocals.

Title: These Days | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Vocal Visions


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Float Upstream CD/LP/Track Review Float Upstream
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Extremophile CD/LP/Track Review Extremophile
by John Sharpe
Published: September 26, 2017
Read The Source CD/LP/Track Review The Source
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Setembro CD/LP/Track Review Setembro
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Aqustico vol 2 CD/LP/Track Review Aqustico vol 2
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 25, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Luz de Luna" CD/LP/Track Review Luz de Luna
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 9, 2017
Read "A Cry For Peace" CD/LP/Track Review A Cry For Peace
by Geannine Reid
Published: October 24, 2016
Read "Morphometry" CD/LP/Track Review Morphometry
by Duncan Heining
Published: August 29, 2017
Read "3Divas" CD/LP/Track Review 3Divas
by Jerome Wilson
Published: August 2, 2017
Read "My Head Is Listening" CD/LP/Track Review My Head Is Listening
by John Sharpe
Published: July 20, 2017
Read "Fountain Of Youth" CD/LP/Track Review Fountain Of Youth
by David A. Orthmann
Published: July 15, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.