Ellen Doty preparing Alberta for a jazz revival

Photo by Josh Gennings

Photo by Josh Gennings

Ellen Doty believes rural Alberta is ready for a jazz renaissance. 

The 27-year-old isn’t just blowing wishful smoke. She knows small town Alberta as well as anyone, growing up on an acreage in De Winton just outside of Okotoks. 

“Jazz tends to have an audience these days where young people have not really been exposed to it,” said Doty, who now lives in Calgary. “It’s great to have young people coming out to shows and being introduced to jazz this way, mixed in with other things they’re more comfortable hearing too.” 

Doty is playing the Bailey Theatre on March 3 as part of a 15-stop tour of Western Canada. 

Though she is still relatively young on her birth certificate, she is an old soul musically. She has be performing since she was five years old, but she was raised on the legends of the genre. He grandmother lived across the street from Nat King Cole in Los Angeles and he was on a steady rotation at her home. Stories about seeing Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and dancing the night away were an integral part of her childhood. 

To listen to Doty is to get sucked into a time long ago with her sultry, soulful voice and sound. It’s as if she is playing a sound track from a Humphrey Bogart movie, except she is putting her own original music out. 

“We like to take people on a journey with the music,” said Doty. “We’ll laugh together, we’ll cry together and have a lot of fun and joke around.” 

She has release three albums, but it was her third effort “Gold” that finally broke through and gave her a taste of success. With that release she broke the top 10 on several jazz charts in Canada and features 10 of her own compositions  as well as one by Toronto songwriter Kyle Zavitz. 

Doty is hoping that momentum builds her latest work that she just finished recording in January. While the album is still in the mixing stage, she will play a few of the singles from it on Friday. The album should be out in the fall. 

“I’m extremely excited about what we’ve created. It was an honour to work with some of the musicians I got to work with on this project and I think it shows tremendous growth from my first album,” said Doty, noting it still has a mix of folk and soul influences on the record as well. “I think the sound is quite unique, it’s only a trio so it’s just voice, piano and drums.” 

Doty’s music has evolved over the course of her now four albums. She has started to focus inward on her songs, dipping into personal stories and messages that mean something to her. It has been a natural progression for the Albertan as she figures out what her voice is going to be with music. 

“I used to write songs to make something catchy or fun when I first started writing, but now I find the personal connection to the music and to the story I am telling, I think the better song it makes,” said Doty.

“It’s really important to draw from my own experience and things that have effected me in my personal life or things that I think are important to share with people — thoughts about being a good person and have I told all the people that I love that I love them, and thoughts about life and not knowing how much time we have.” 

This mentality has reinforced her mission in pursuing what you really love as a career. 

Though relatively new on the scene, philanthropy is already working its way into her mission. With her song “Favourite Sweater” off of her album Gold, proceeds from the single go to the Calgary Drop-in Centre. 

“As an artist I don’t make a ton of money, but I feel there are people who need it so much more than I do,” said Doty. “There’s a lot of people struggling in Calgary, I know the drop-in centre was having a real tough year and there’s a lot of homeless people in Calgary and just people in need. I think it’s so important to give back to the community and be apart of the community in more ways than just being a musician.” 

Tickets for the show are available at the Bailey Box Office or online at www.baileytheatre.com — $25 for adults and $15 for students.