MONTCLAIR WOMEN’S BIG
Ellen Seeling, Director
Equally adept at jazz, R&B, Latin and pop/rock, Director Ellen Seeling has a multi-faceted career as a trumpet player, bandleader, educator and recording artist with over 30 albums to her credit. The first woman to earn a degree in Jazz Studies from Indiana University, the Milwaukee native moved to New York City in 1975. There she performed and/or recorded with The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Machito Orchestra, Slide Hampton Big Band, Luther Vandross, Laura Nyro, Ray Barretto, Sister Sledge, Chic, Paquito d’Rivera, The Temptations, Larry Harlow and Latin Fever, Joe Cocker, Cornell Dupree, Isis, Ben E. King, Martha Reeves, and Larry Elgart.
In 1980, Seeling and saxophonist/composer Jean Fineberg formed the jazz fusion band Deuce, recording their first album of original compositions, DEUCE, in 1986, and their second, WindJammer, in 1996. The recordings earned a Jazz Feature Pick in Cash Box Magazine, and rave reviews in Jazziz, The Village Voice, the Kansas City Star, the Boston Globe and Windplayer Magazine. As Phil Elwood wrote in the San Francisco Examiner, Deuce plays “sensational on-the-edge jazz with electronic propulsion, classy arrangements, and wonderful performances…a sensuous Spyro Gyra”
Relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989, Seeling continued to perform with Deuce, Patti LaBelle, DIVA, Phoebe Snow, Maiden Voyage, and the Seeling/Muscarella Group. In 1998 Ellen founded the Montclair Women’s Big Band, in an effort to provide greater visibility for the large Bay Area community of women jazz artists. The ensemble released its first self-titled CD in 2005, which Cadence Magazine called “a sharp and consistently rewarding big band album.” Writing in All About Jazz, Jack Bowers labeled the recording “premium-grade jazz, rigorously blended for high mileage and maximum pleasure.” MWBB has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, for the Grammy Foundation in Los Angeles, CA, The SFJazz Festival, the San Jose Jazz Festival, KCSM-FM Listener’s Concerts, Yoshi’s San Francisco and Oakland, the Human Rights Campaign and Hillary Clinton. The CD is a best seller on CDBaby.com.
Seeling currently teaches private jazz trumpet and/or ensembles at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Jazzschool in Berkeley, California. She has also held teaching positions at Indiana University, Pennsylvania State University, the International Women’s Brass Conference, JazzCamp West and the Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival. In 2009 Ellen founded and co-directed the country’s first annual Girls’ Jazz & Blues Camp at the Jazzschool, featuring a women’s faculty from the Montclair Women’s Big Band.
A recent guest on Marian McPartland’s NPR show Piano Jazz, Ellen is the recipient of three RIAA platinum record awards for her million-seller recordings with Sister Sledge and Chic, a National Endowment for the Arts award in Performance, and two Meet the Composer grants. She has been profiled in several books, including The Jazz Years (Leonard Feather), Stormy Weather (Linda Dahl), American Women in Jazz (Sally Placksin), Madame Jazz (Leslie Gourse), Women and Music in America since 1900: an Encyclopedia (Kristine Burns), and Soul Picnic, the Music and Passion of Laura Nyro (Michele Kort). She is a consultant to the San Francisco Arts Commission, and is a voting member of NARAS, presenters of the Grammy Awards.
-Jonathan Widran, Jazziz Magazine