If the name Ellen Honert doesn’t ring any musical bells for you, I’m here to change that! Bay area Singer/Songwriter/Pianist Honert has just released her debut CD, Breath of the Soul on the Mill Station Records label. The twelve tracks include a cover of the Beatles’ classic, "Got to Get You Into My Life," as well as Ellen originals. All tracks were produced and brilliantly arranged by Frank Martin, who recently did the same for relative newcomer, Karen Blixt (interviewed by JazzReview.com last month). The tracks include great musicians like Alex Acuna, Tuck & Patti, Dori Caymmi, and Ray Fuller.
Ellen Honert has great range. In her lower registers, she is reminiscent of Anita Baker, with swoops and glides and interesting timing. I love to sing along with whatever vocals I listen to, but I am unable to do this with Ellen’s recordings. The originals aren’t "sing-along friendly" because they are very intricate melodically, and a bit complicated to wrap the brain around. This does not make this CD unlistenable, however, quite the contrary. I couldn’t wait to see what Ms. Honert would do with the next track, and the next, and so on. I was never disappointed by her originality.
Blue is my favorite track on this album. Being a lover of Latin-tinged jazz, I was thoroughly impressed with the rhythms that reminded me a bit of Jobim. Ellen even sings one song in her native Dutch language. Very cool! Tuck and Patti join Ellen on one song lending their unique signature sound to this distinctive recording.
When I asked how she managed to recruit this classic jazz duo for her CD, Ellen told me the coolest story! In her hometown of Amsterdam, Holland, one night not long ago, Ellen jumped on her bike after work and went to see Tuck and Patti at a local venue. She always loved their music and was even influenced by the lyrics of their song, "Learning How to Fly" ("You’ve always known that this was not your home, you’ve been longing for that place where you would not feel so all alone "). That night, after the show, Tuck and Patti joined Ellen at a neighborhood bar! During the meeting, Patti mentioned "Jazz Camp," a renowned and intensive training and networking experience. Ellen, a typical Libra who usually weighs everything very carefully, decided immediately to go and two months later, arrived at the doors of the weeklong camp in LaHonda, California.
Heavily influenced by the camp’s intensive vocal course taught by Rebecca Parris, Ellen knew she had made the right choice in attending. Ellen says that Rebecca went straight to her heart, critiquing and praising her, teaching her about much more than just singing. Ellen’s life was about to change drastically.
In her "past life," Ellen Honert was a student majoring in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. She worked as a political consultant and book editor, and led a music-themed management-training course called "Singing with Executives."
She decided to give music more thought, and began school to hone her musical talent. Her now 90-year-old grandmother had been a singer in Holland, but her dad discouraged her to pursue bar singing as a vocation and stopped allowing her to do it. Ellen wanted to become a professional musician to hold the torch for her grandma, who is quite proud of her granddaughter’s achievements. When I dared ask Ellen how old she was, she quoted the singer, Pilar, when she said (with a wink in her voice), "You ain’t much of a singer until you’re 35." I asked her if I could borrow that quote. She said, "Absolutely!"
One year at the Conservatory of Music in Holland left Ellen feeling empty. Their way of breaking down a musician and rebuilding them into something only reminiscent of what they started as wasn’t a tactic that was embraced by Ms. Honert So when she arrived in America to attend Jazz Camp, she saw a whole different way to teach a musician--lessons that brought out the best in the talent were exactly what she needed, and had missed out on in Holland. In America, Ellen found the freedom to be who she IS. She told me, "I do believe that you need others to bring out your uniqueness finding a balance. Jazz Camp gave me the tools to express my uniqueness." So Ellen left all the family she has in Holland and stayed in the Bay area in California, making it her new home. Ellen, let me just say, "Welkom thuis."
She adds that joining with producer Frank Martin helped give her the mix of commercialism and being true to her artistry. Ellen says, "I believe people are waking up to the fact that mainstream NEEDS to be individual," and although she says she is still "finding her style," this welcome new member of the jazz artist community deserves to be heard throughout her journey to find it.
For more information on Jazz Camp, go to www.jazzcampwest.com. Make sure you visit Ellen at www.honertmusic.com for news and information about upcoming tours and recordings. Breath of the Soul is available on CDBaby.com, iTunes and on Ellen’s website.