Today’s episode features jazz bassist and vocalist Katie Ernst. Katie was recently featured in the Chicago Reader, and Jason Moran describes her as “a great bassist, composer, and lyricist, she has an uncanny ability to mix traditions… following her voice is like reading a great novel.” She is one of Chicago’s most active young bassists, with two recent album releases: her solo project Little Words and her trio album Twin Talk.
We talk about Katie’s years growing up in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, her “yearly check-ins” at the Birch Creek Music Performance Center with Jeff Campbell, studying at Eastman with Jeff Campbell and James VanDemark, and her educational work at the Jazz Institute of Chicago. We also cover the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program, her job directing the big band at the Wheaton Conservatory, differences between the New York City and Chicago jazz scenes, and much more!
Katie’s recent projects:
Listener Feedback Links:
- Noah Yanicki – The Mountain and the Moon – new release – excerpt of Jackrabbit played
- David White – The Bridges of Madison County
- grew up in Naperville, product of Naperville public school system
- piano starting in 1st grade – sang in church and in choir
- took bass lessons with Jeremy Attanaseo in preparation for Eastman audition
- Studied with Jeff Campbell and James VanDemark – worked on Romberg, Simandl, vibrato, other fundamentals with VanDemark
- lots of summer camps in high school, fiddle camp, other camps – eventually found Birch Creek Music Center right before 9th grade – used Birch Creek as her “yearly check-in”
- Jeff Campbell – focused on deep fundamentals – applied lessons she learned during the summer throughout the following year
- becoming a jazz vocalist while in high school – singing with the jazz band, etc.
- the experience of playing the foundation and singing the melody simultaneously – interesting way to experience tunes
- Katie encourages her bass students to sing as well – incredibly helpful for young improvisors
- Katie got a bachelor of musical arts degrees at Eastman as well—kind of like a “doctorate lite’ – she studied linguistic analysis tools in jazz scat singing
- Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program in Washington, D.C. – where she met Jason Moran
What drew Katie back to Chicago
- didn’t want to go directly to a masters program
- Eastman had a postgraduate internship program where they pay a stipend for you to work for a nonprofit
- Katie called the Jazz Institute of Chicago and proposed that she be an intern
- moved into Chicago itself – became connected with the community of creative music in Chicago
- differences between New York City and Chicago jazz scenes
- Twin Talk
- interactive group – focus on exploring ideas together – elements of freedom and original compositions – groovy, melodic, experimental
- Little Words
- project under Katie’s name – Dorothy Parker poems set to music
- powerful poems that have a singable quality to them – cultivated
- Lessons learned serving as Big Band Director at Wheaton Conservatory
- listening to the whole band
- thinking programmatically when selecting music
- how to articulate to a group of musicians how to “get” a certain style
- Jazz Institute of Chicago – education program director
- takes students to see performances
- monthly meetings
- opportunities to be an opening act for Jazz Institute concerts
Finding time for creativity
Bass News Right To Your Inbox!
Subscribe to get our weekly newsletter covering the double bass world.