National touring artist Laura Ellis will bring her velvety voice and spicy styling of vintage and modern melodies to Moonlight Amphitheatre’s highly successful Club M on Friday, March 11th at 8 PM. She will be performing “In a Jazz Mood” on the Moonlight Amphitheatre stage. The cabaret styled setting will be a perfect fit for this renowned touring artist, as she will entertain with an array of retro jazz favorites and songs of the silver screen sirens as well as tunes of early Rock and Roll. She describes her performances as a “theatrical show” that will bring back nostalgia from a time that is a distant memory.
Ms. Ellis was born and raised in Kansas City, where she developed a love for traditional jazz music. The custodian in the high school she attended played the clarinet in jazz groups around town and Laura spoke with him often about his love of jazz. She spent 22 years in Kansas City and said the city is currently going through a resurgence of all art forms, including the traditional jazz they were famous for beginning. She is known as the Noir City Nightingale, a title associated with the Noir City Film Festival, a 10 day event in San Francisco featuring classical noir movies of the 40’s and 50’s and music from this time period and from the films. She said the Castro Theatre plays 2-4 films a day for 10 days and other venues are turned into clubs mimicking the jazz clubs from this time period. Hundreds of fans dress in period costume and take part in this event. The sold out events have become so popular, other cities across the nation are now sponsoring similar festivals. She has performed numerous times for the event and considers it one of her favorite venues.
The first noir film she saw was “Gilda” starring Rita Hayworth. Ms. Hayworth was not the singer in the film, her voice was dubbed by Anita Ellis, but the song “I’ve Been Kissed Before” made such an impression on Laura, she includes it in her current concerts. Her favorite current jazz singers include Karen Ellison and Marilyn May, also from Kansas City, and Harry Connick Jr. and Manhattan Transfer. Alan Paul, of Manhattan Transfer, produced her first CD, “Here Lies Love”. She met him when she was trying to figure out exactly what style she wanted to pursue for her singing career. After taking some performing classes from him, which included choosing the right songs for her albums, Laura began to focus on musical nostalgia. Mr. Paul has described Laura as “an exceptional talent. Her voice has a soothing warmth likened to an alto flute and a sensuality and intimacy in her performance that makes one feel like she is singing only to them.”
Photos by Shannon Brooke
At the present time, she is focusing on solo concerts, but she is also a member of several retro-musical productions. One group, The Wonderalles, is a 50’s-60’s girls group, singing popular girl group songs from the early days of Rock n’ Roll. A similar group she sings with is Kit and the Kats, also singing songs from the 50’s and early 60’s. Cinema Sweethearts is a cabaret singing group singing songs originally sung by women of the silver screen, singers like Judy Garland, Shirley Temple and Marilyn Monroe.
Laura does not shy away from featuring songs that mimic stars of the past. One of the songs she includes in her show is “Once Too Often” that has been described as sounding like a “pissed off Betty Grable”. She and her husband have a Film Noir-to-stage show they produce and perform called “Femme Fatale”, which incorporates both film and a concert on the stage. She refers to this show as “nostalgia with an edge”.
Her accomplishments go beyond her solo and group performances. She has performed songs for the History Channel, “Modern Marvels”, “Make Me Laugh”, “Modern Family” on ABC, and HBO Carnivale series and the sensual singing voice on the videogame Compulsion Game’s “Contrast”. Her cabaret performances have taken her to stages in Southern California, Florida, Kansas and to Jazz Alley in Seattle and recently, Feinstein’s at the Nikko in San Francisco, as well as performances at the Noir City Festival in San Francisco. She said she loves performing in “unusual spaces and cities willing to turn theatres into cabarets for the evening”, such as the community of Torrance and in Vista’s own Club M.
On the Club M stage Laura will be accompanied by master pianist John Rodby, John Harvey on percussion and Billy Brookmann on bass. Mr. Rodby has been with Laura for 12 years. He is a master pianist, director and arranger as well as a veteran of television and film. He has played for Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Rita Moreno, Tiny Tim, Connie Francis and Carol Lawrence. He was also nominated for an Emmy as Musical Director for Disneyland’s 30th Anniversary celebration and has coordinated the music for the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. Mr. Rodby arranges all of the music for Laura for her shows and on her CD’s.
One sale at Club M will be her 3 CD’s – “Here” Lies Love”, “Femme Fatale” and her newest CD “Broken Lovely”. Master pianist John Rodby will also have his CD’s on sale.
The evening of March 11th will be an evening to remember in Vista. Ms. Ellis says those attending will enjoy a “step-back-in-time” to the 1940’s and 1950’s mixed in with some retro and current jazz and contemporary melodies, all in a night club/cabaret atmosphere. We will all enjoy “nuanced song-styling to the sultry and sassy songs of the past, as well as a new jazz sound to melodies of more recent vintage”.
This concert is currently sold out, to check on ticket availability or cancellations, call VisTix.
For ticket information contact VisTix at 200 Civic Center Dr., or call 760-724-2110. Tickets are $80 each and includes dinner from the Artisan Café and the concert. Doors open at 6 PM and the concert begins at 8 PM. Moonlight Amphitheatre is located in Brengle Terrace Park at 1200 Vale Terrace Dr..