Ellen Kirkwood

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Tunes by Ellen Kirkwood


Ellen Kirkwood is a trumpeter, composer, bandleader and teacher from Newtown, Sydney. Born in Port Macquarie into a musical family, music has been her passion since she was very young. She studied Jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium under many Australian Jazz greats including Mike Nock, Warwick Alder, Judy Bailey, Matt McMahon and Dale Barlow. In 2012 she won the Jann Rutherford Memorial Award for young women in Jazz, including a recording at the Sydney ABC Studios, project funding, and performances in Sydney and Melbourne.

Ellen is a prolific composer who is rapidly gaining recognition for her imaginative writing style. Her debut album with sextet Captain Kirkwood released in 2013, named “Theseus and the Minotaur” featured a 5 part narrated music-story suite which received glowing reviews and critical acclaim. Kirkwood has also penned many Big Band originals and arrangements, a large number of which are performed regularly by popular Sydney world music/jazz crossover group Sirens Big Band. Additionally, she leads party band Fat Yahoozah, who play an exciting mixture of styles from Afrobeat to Gypsy to Ska, also released their debut album in July 2015, full of her original compositions.

In 2015, Ellen was commissioned by SIMA and Ars Musica to write a suite of new music to be premiered at the 2015 Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival. This suite, named “The Mieville Project' is a set of musical illustrations set to narrated excerpts from the fiction of “new weird” author China Mieville, and features national treasure Sandy Evans, plus Alon Ilsar and his fascinating invention, the AirSticks.

Ellen is also a member of Matthew Ottignon's Ethio-Jazz group Mister Ott, progressive rock/jazz/Zappa-esque band Facemeat, Gypsy-Punk-New Orleans outfit On The Stoop, 1920's Gypsy Jazz troupe Godfrey Uke and his Orchestra, and is a past member of The Bakery and Lolo Lovina. Other notable Australian musicians Ellen has performed with include Paul Cutlan, Mike Nock, Greg Sheehan, Mohammed Youssef and Ben Walsh.

Kirkwood has been teaching trumpet, improvisation and composition, and directing high school stage bands and jazz ensembles since 2004. She has also been secretary of the Jazzgroove Committee since June 2014.

“Ellen Kirkwood’s music has that rare quality that characterises the music of the best composers: a truly unique, original voice that leaves you dying to hear the next piece.” – Sandy Evans, OAM

Praise for “Theseus and the Minotaur” - “However well you know the tale, this retelling is gripping. 4 stars.” John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald


As bandleader:

“I Don't Care” - Fat Yahoozah, 2015

“Theseus and the Minotaur” - Captain Kirkwood, 2013

“EQ Sampler” - EQ, 2008

As band member:

“Drop It Like It's Ott” - Mister Ott, 2015

“Questions for Men” - Facemeat, 2015

“Kali and the Time of Change” - Sirens Big Band, 2013

“Live at Bohemian Grove” - Matt Ottignon's Muziqawi Ott, 2012

“Pushing the Boundary” - Judy Bailey's Jazz Connection, 2006

“Sydney Conservatorium Big Band” - Sydney Conservatorium Big Band, 2007