Chris Ellis

About Chris Ellis

British jazz veteran Chris Ellis is a perfect example of a talented singer who has spent much of his career behind the scenes. As a vocalist, Ellis has recorded infrequently over the years -- much to the regret of his fans -- but he has had no problem keeping busy as a producer and an A&R man. In fact, Ellis is among Europe's better-known jazz producers and is well-respected for his work with the late Susannah McCorkle, one of his "discoveries." Someone who plays free jazz or fusion might say that Ellis has conservative tastes by today's standards; he has tended to favor pre-bebop jazz styles (swing, classic jazz, and Dixieland) as well as traditional pre-rock pop. As a vocalist, his influences range from Jack Teagarden to Louis Armstrong to Bing Crosby. Nonetheless, Ellis has worked with his share of bop artists, although he has never been a big supporter of modal jazz, avant-garde jazz, fusion, or jazz-funk. One might also say that Ellis has been more singer-friendly than a lot of other jazz-oriented producers; he was never the sort of producer who wanted to work with instrumentalists exclusively (which makes sense because Ellis is a singer himself). Born in Shrewsbury, England on December 25, 1928, Ellis was in his pre-teens and early teens when England was at war with Germany during World War II, and he has vivid memories of London being bombed unmercifully by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. By the time Ellis reached adulthood, World War II was over, and the Allied Forces (the United States, England, France, and the Soviet Union) were victorious, which meant that young Brits had more time to devote to the arts. As a young singer, Ellis became active on the London jazz scene, but eventually, he ended putting most of his energy into production and A&R. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, Ellis had an in-house job in EMI's London office, and it was in the mid-‘70s that he discovered Susannah McCorkle (an American jazz/cabaret chanteuse who was living in England at the time). Ellis was among the first people to see McCorkle's potential, and he produced her early demos as well as her first few albums. It was also in the mid-‘70s that Ellis became a featured vocalist for the New Paul Whiteman Orchestra, a ghost band that focused on the late Whiteman's ‘20s and ‘30s repertoire. Unfortunately, Ellis hasn't recorded nearly enough solo albums, although he did return to the studio in the late ‘80s (when he recorded Vocal with Hot Accompaniment for the Dormouse label). After spending most of his life in Great Britain, Ellis moved to Amsterdam, Holland in the early ‘90s, and since then, has often worked with Challenge Records, a Dutch label. The artists he has produced for Challenge include, among others, trumpeter/flügelhornist Dick Sudhalter, veteran trombonist Spiegle Willcox, Dutch singer Soesja Citroen (who is among the Netherlands' top jazz vocalists), and Philadelphia singer Lou Lanza. ~ Alex Henderson

Shrewsbury, United Kingdom
December 25, 1928

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