Sandy Brown Jazz

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The monthly Tea Break is a series of short, fun items in What's New Magazine that also gives jazz musicians an opportunity to update us with what they are doing. Here are the Tea Breaks they (and I) have taken since 2015.

Ellie Bignall (Vocalist) - October 2017


Ellie Bignall



Listen to Ellie singing 'Til There Was You originally written for the musical The Music Man by Meredith Willson.






In August 2017 I was at a gig at The Spice Of Life in London. NYJO were playing - the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Ellie Bignall came on to sing and immediately it was clear that this was a vocalist with a lot of talent; a voice she knew how to use and a way of communicating naturally with both the band and her audience. She had just completed her BMus Hons degree course at Trinity Conservatoire of Music in London.

Ellie grew up in Hertfordshire where she was brought up listening almost solely to jazz and classical music. She discovered she had a passion for singing when she was very young and particularly for singing standards and modern jazz. She was once described as a ‘teenage singing sensation’!

She has gone on to explore many genres of music including jazz, soul, gospel, and classical. Her style of singing is very reminiscent of the forties and fifties; often likened to singers such as Anita O’Day, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. She has performed at various venues in and around London, including Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, the Palace of Westminster, the Vortex Jazz Club (as part of the Trinity Conservatoire Jazz Choir), the Spice of Life, the 100 Club, Oliver’s Jazz Bar (where she currently has a residency running a weekly jam session), and St Anthony’s Jazz Club. She has also taken part many times in high-profile jam sessions, including at Ronnie Scott’s, Small’s Jazz Club (New York) and the Jazzkeller (Frankfurt), and was once invited onstage to sing at the American Legion Speakeasy in Harlem with the Jason Marshall Organ Trio.

As well as singing with NYJO, Ellie also has her own Jazz Quintet with Tom Ridout (saxes), Ralph Wyld (vibes), Flo Moore (bass) and Rod Oughton (drums).

It seemed a good time to catch up with here for a Tea Break:


Ellie Bignall



Hi Ellie, tea or coffee?

Hello there! Tea, please.


Milk and sugar?

Milk (and lots of it, please) but no sugar, thanks.


How does it feel now you have completed your degree course at Trinity?

Such a relief! But also rather scary…


Yes, I guess it is quite a journey. If someone wants to be a jazz singer, can you give them a tip? Sort of ‘If I knew then what I know now .......’

Honestly I think the most important thing an aspiring jazz singer can do is listen to jazz as much as possible, and not just to singers. There’s only so much you can learn theoretically, so just listen to as much as you can. Then start transcribing things you like (licks, the way someone swings or phrases, etc).


Here is Ellie and her interpretation of the jazz standard Comes Love.






Anita O'Day


If you could ask two past jazz vocalists to join us for the tea break, who would you invite?

 Anita O’Day and Carmen McRae.


Anita O'Day

[Click here for a video of Anita O'Day singing Honeysuckle Rose live in Tokyo in 1963]

What would you ask them?

Who their main influences were, what life was like as a professional jazz singer for them, and who their favourite musicians (to play with and listen to) and influences were. I guess it would be pretty awesome to know what it was like playing and working with some of the greats too!




Hob Nob, Custard Cream, or digestive biscuit?

Definitely a digestive… Best dunking biscuit!


Jason Marshall Organ Trio


I hear you were invited onstage to sing at the American Legion Speakeasy in Harlem with the Jason Marshall Organ Trio. That must have been great! How did that happen?


You know, I was actually only 18 when this happened! I was in NYC on a course with the New York Jazz Academy, and happened to bump into Jason Marshall two nights in a row at various gigs. He recognised us and invited us to see his organ trio the next evening. We went, and while we were there we got chatting with the Mayor of Harlem, who found out I was a jazz singer and – since he’s a friend of Jason Marshall – asked them if I could sing with them. The band asked to hear me sing outside, and then invited me up to sing with them in the second half. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life!





How’s it going with your Quintet? Who is involved? How long have you been going?

It’s great, thanks! I love playing with them – every time we do a gig I feel so proud and lucky to be able to play with such amazing musicians. It’s Tom Ridout on saxes, Ralph Wyld on vibes, Flo Moore on bass and Rod Oughton on drums. I think we’ve been playing together since autumn 2015… Quite a long time, I guess!


What have you got coming up next? Can people still hear you sing with NYJO?

I’ve got some exciting gigs coming up, and I’m organising a tour (and maybe even an album!) for next year at the moment. Details to be confirmed - but watch this space! People can indeed hear me sing with NYJO – in fact the NYJO Nonet are doing an exciting gig in Mayfair as part of a feature for up and coming jazz musicians on the 22nd September.


Who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?

I think I’d need a week to list them all… The members of my band are obviously amazing – definitely check them all out!  But I’m going to give you two other singers: Miriam Ast and Louise Balkwill. Totally different styles of jazz, and they’re both amazing and going to go far!



Here's a video of Miriam Ast, the Aubin Vanns Trio and Boplicity at the 606 Club]





Another biscuit?

No thanks, I probably shouldn’t… Oh, go on then. Cheers!


Perhaps another song first? .........

O.K. Well, summer seems well and truly over now, so how about a winter song?







Ellie Bignall

Photograph by Nesley Joy


Click here for Ellie Bignall's website and contact details.


Utah Teapot


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Other pages you might find of interest :

More Tea Breaks
Tracks Unwrapped
Full Focus
Jazz Remembered

© Sandy Brown Jazz 2017