Jazz Child: A Portrait of Sheila Jordan – update June 2014

COVER_Jazz Child_front coverI’m so excited that the biography I have been writing for many years (published by Rowman & Littlefield) will be coming out this September!

I’m so grateful to all who have contributed to the book through interviews, photographs, and support. It was quite an undertaking for me and my very first book.

As far as being creative, this was truly an exercise in allowing myself to do something from another direction of expression about a truly creative and inspiring individual.

I’m looking forward to the creative journey it will continue to take me on as I bring it out into the world.




Innovation Through Creative Improvisation Workshop

Today I’m giving another one of my creativity workshops, this time at the Jazzschool in Berkeley, CA. I love giving these workshops because it’s so inspiring to watch people use their imaginations, let go, have fun and find something inside of themselves that wants to create.

Here’s the flyer:

Microsoft Word - Innovation Through Creative Improvisation FLyer

Sheila Jordan: Little Messenger

As I continue my journey writing this biography on Sheila Jordan I am reflective as to my own intuitive feelings upon getting to know this wonderful Jazz messenger.

Sheila was gracious enough to record one of her songs on my recording project These Days back in 2006. The song was “The Crossing” and because it was a song she wrote about her recovery I thought it was a beautiful statement about hope and how when things look dark there is always something that can pull you through. In her case, it was the music she loves, jazz. We sang a duet with bassist Darek Oles in the tradition of the bass and voice style that Sheila has carved into the musical landscape as one of her contributions and innovations.

What an honor to be hurled into history with that moment and the many other moments spent with her and working on this book.

Several years prior I had written this poem for her and ended up reciting it on the recording with her singing an improvisation. Another special moment that I will never forget.

Below is the poem but I hope that some of you will seek out the track with her haunting and delightful improvisational call and response. She is a treasure to not only the jazz world but to those of us who have had the privilege of spending time with her and absorbing her wisdom and joyful spirit.

(For Sheila Jordan)

Little messenger
Singing jazz
As she passes our way
On the wings of blackbirds
That blow bebop changes
While telling Charlie’s stories
Through sagacious Cherokee eyes
Not a surprise
To watch wood and flesh
Inspired by the rhythm of ancient ancestors
Calling from the heart of time
The phrases of truth
Dripping down piano keys
Just to please
The songbird
Who perches on our souls
Spreading her seeds of joy
And love
And hope
While God holds her essence
In the perpetual palm of his spirit
As a gift to humanity.

Ellen Johnson
©2004 Long Snows Moon Music

This poem is available on the download or CD These Days featuring Sheila Jordan improvising in the background (available at iTunes and CDBaby.com). Go to: http://ellenjohnson.net/store/these_days/

Ellen-Sheila_9-06s copy

What motivates us to create?

I wrote an article a few years ago that was posted on the Creativity Portal. It was about what motivates us to Rare-Pearl-oystercreate. I believe our desire to create is part of being alive and the nature of the universe. Often what motivates us is inspiration from either positive or negative experiences. In my past article I used the example of the oyster and the pearl.

According to livescience.com,  “A natural pearl begins its life inside an oyster’s shell when an intruder, such as a grain of sand or bit of floating food, slips in between one of the two shells of the oyster, a type of mollusk, and the protective layer that covers the mollusk’s organs, called the mantle. In order to protect itself from irritation, the oyster will quickly begin covering the uninvited visitor with layers of nacre — the mineral substance that fashions the mollusk’s shells. Layer upon layer of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, coat the grain of sand until the iridescent gem is formed. Cultured pearls are made in the same way. The only difference is that instead of accidental circumstances, a “pearl farmer” embeds a grain of sand into the mollusk.”

So it is with creativity that often the things that “irritate” us or cause deep emotions are the best inspiration for works of art. So often artists comment on how their best work came from some dark or unhappy moment in their lives. Does this mean you have to be angry or depressed to create, no. However, knowing how to dig deep into your emotions to find inspiration is the key. Perhaps in creating a beautiful song, poem, dance, painting or even a great meal can help us to release these emotions in a constructive and contributing way to society.

To read the entire article about the Oyster and the Pearl go to:


Creativity Is Simple

“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity” – Charles Mingus

Nature is a perfect example.

She creates every day and we hardly notice her wonders.

This journey for me is to write from my heart what I feel, what brings me joy, what I want to explore, who I am, what the world creates, and what I create in the world.

Stop by and visit…