The future of jazz has always been shaped by young singer-songwriter-musicians, whether in small cities or mega metropolitan areas. Despite Alberta’s blanket country music image, venues across the province have inspired generations of jazz listeners.
Jazz, like our many rivers and streams, has never stood still. It always flows, improvises and never stagnates. One of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s gifts to jazz is singer Ellen Doty who explores the changing times that have shaped her sensibilities.
A charismatic vocalist, the Edmonton-based artist fuses jazz with a patina of pop, soul, folk and indie music. Doty returns to St. Albert on Saturday, Jan. 14 for her debut performance at the new City Arts Space. Backup musicians Peter Hendrickson (drums) and Devon Hart (keyboardist) provide support.
Originally from Okotoks, she was employed by the City of St. Albert as a cultural program coordinator for fundraising from 2017-19.
“I really look forward to returning to St. Albert. It has a special place in my heart, especially because of all the staff and volunteers I worked with at the Arden. It’s like a homecoming,” said Doty.
Although raised in southern Alberta, she has travelled across our sprawling country, refining her technique and transforming from a wannabe singer-for-hire to an inspirational influence boasting a rich, warm and mellow voice.
An early starter, Doty sang The Lion King hit single Can You Feel the Love Tonight at her first-grade talent show. Although only five, the performance bug had bitten her. She later went on to study vocal jazz at Carleton University in Ottawa before returning to her roots out west.
By 2012, the singer-songwriter was living in Calgary and released an short EP titled That’s Love.
“The theme was love. A great deal of it was about possibilities and my love for music and my desire to pursue it more fully,” Doty said.
True to her word, a year later she was the recipient of the Outstanding Soloist Award at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho. Doty’s debut album, Gold, came out in 2014 and was built on the foundation she hammered together with That’s Love.
The critically acclaimed Al Muirhead, a staple of Calgary’s jazz scene, completed the horn arrangements for the more traditional sounding pop-jazz album. Lauded across several college radio charts across Canada, the release was followed by a 42-stop coast-to-coast tour from Sydney to Victoria.
“It was a big tour. I feel we learned a lot about performing and enjoying the audience. We performed in so many different places. We learned about ourselves, and the different reactions audiences have.”
Impressed by her songs, Toronto based Alma Records signed her to a deal and in 2018, Doty released Come Fall, her sophomore album.
“All the material was original, and I took a minimalist approach. It was just voice, piano and drums. We really stripped away the instruments and left space for the songs to breathe.”
Currently her goal is to learn, grow and experiment in creating technically and socially challenging music that speaks from the heart. “I have a deep love of music of many different genres – jazz, pop, musical theatre, folk – and I want to incorporate all in what I do,” said Doty.
“At the City Arts Space concert, I’ll be mixing older songs and sharing new material and reimagined standards. I like to tell stories and engage with the audience in making this a special music experience.”
The Ellen Doty Trio performs Saturday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at City Arts Space, 125 Carleton Drive, Unit #15. Tickets are $28 and are available at www.tickets.stalbert.ca or phone 780-459-1542.