Charles Mingus is known for being one of the most important figures in twentieth century American music as a virtuoso bass player, pianist, bandleader and composer. For more than three decades Johnson has been involved as a singer and lyricist with the vocal music of Mingus in concerts and recordings. Granted permission by Mingus’s wife, Sue Mingus, Johnson has recorded six Mingus compositions with original lyrics to three of them. Her haunting version of “Peggy’s Blue Skylight” on the debut CD, Too Good To Title, featured alto saxophonist and frequent Mingus collaborator, Charles McPherson.
The concert, “Bassic Truth” (a day before Mingus’s 91st birthday) will be the first time that Johnson has performed these compositions in the San Francisco Bay Area and will showcase her lyrics along with Joni Mitchell, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and those of Mingus himself. Johnson has a long history in the jazz community as a professional vocalist, educator and writer (currently working on the biography of NEA Jazz Master, Sheila Jordan) and is currently teaching jazz vocal classes at The Jazzschool. She has performed and/or recorded with Sheila Jordan, Bobby McFerrin, Louie Bellson, Pete Christlieb, Don Braden, Billy Drummond, Larry Koonse, John Stowell, and Hugh Martin among many others.
The concert and workshop are both at the Jazzschool located at 2087 Addison Street in Berkeley, CA. Tickets for the concert on April 21st are $18.00 general admission and $12.00 for seniors and students and can be purchased online at www.jazzschool.org/
Registration for the workshop on April 28th is $50.00 advance purchase/$65.00 day of the workshop and can be reserved online at www.jazzschool.org/
About Ellen Johnson
Described by Jazz Journal International Magazine as “superior jazz singing by an artist of the highest quality,” Johnson has three widely recognized jazz CD’s that include 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 is currently working on a new project for release this year, Form/formless, that features guitarists Larry Koonse and John Stowell doing original creative improvisational compositions with classic standards. She has performed, recorded and studied with many exceptional musicians including; Charles McPherson, Louie Bellson, Bobby McFerrin, John Clayton, Willie Pickens, Don Braden, Roy McCurdy, Hugh Martin, John Stowell, Larry Koonse and many more. Johnson is also a songwriter, lyricist, educator, and is the founder of Vocal Visions which has promoted and produced artists and instructional products, including her own publications, The Warm Up CD, Vocal Builders and You Sing Jazz. Ellen has published lyrics to the famous Sonny Rollins composition, “St. Thomas” and Charles Mingus’s “Peggy’s Blue Skylight,” “Nostalgia In Times Square” and “Noddin Ya Head Blues.” She is currently writing the biography, Jazz Child: The Story of Sheila Jordan, set for publication with Scarecrow Press in the near future. 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 MFA program. California Polytechnic University Pomona and has given master classes in vocal jazz at the University of Southern California among many other colleges. She was a keynote speaker on the “Art Song of Duke Ellington” for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) international conference and served as president and co-founder of the Jazz Vocal Coalition (JZVOC). Ellen has written numerous music articles and reviews and was the Jazz Editor for Singer&Musician Magazine, past president of the San Diego Chapter of NATS, and 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, Jay Clayton, Jon Hendricks, Mark Murphy, Kurt Elling, Jay Clayton, Kitty Margolis, Derek Sivers and others. Johnson can be reached through her website, www.ellenjohnson.net.