Ellis Hall, accomplished and prolific performer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist with a five-octave range, is entertainment’s best-kept secret. In a career spanning over four decades, Hall has solidified a reputation for soul- searing Rhythm & Blues, and has electrified audiences throughout the world. Hall has also made a mark as an incredible songwriter, arranger, and producer.
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Ellis spent the first five years of his life in the small town of Claxton, Georgia. Diagnosed with glaucoma as an infant, Hall lost sight in his right eye early on. Doctors informed his parents that Ellis would eventually lose sight his left eye as well. In an effort to afford Ellis the best possible education and care, his parents made the decision to move the family to Boston so Ellis could attend the Perkins School for the Blind. While at Perkins, he mastered the bass, guitar, keyboards, piano, and drums. As his sight continued to deteriorate, Hall readied himself for the inevitable by practicing his instruments in the dark. He refused to allow the disease to define him.
In 1973, he created The Ellis Hall Group, which proved that he was to be roundly lauded for his own brand of hair-raising performances. During this time he was discovered by East Bay Soul “SENSATIONS” Tower of Power. He spent many years performing, writing, and producing with the group in the mid- 1980s, and highlights the release of the album Power as one of his most memorable projects. On the recording, he boasts a number of his own compositions, including the incredible ballad “Some Days Were Meant for Rain.”
Following many notable achievements in the world of professional performance, Hall moved to Los Angeles, California in 1984 to broaden his musical horizons and quickly became a First Call session player lending his vocal and instrumental prowess for many projects. 1986 Ellis was the vocalist on the song ‘What Does It Take to Win Your Love’, a track on Kenny G’s 5 time platinum debut album “Duo Tones.” He has also performed with a multitude of musical icons, including Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Earth Wind & Fire, George Duke, Michael McDonald, Brett Michaels, Billy Preston, James Taylor, John Mayer and his musical Mentor, Ray Charles.
In 2001 Ellis met the legendary musical icon Ray Charles, who was so taken with Hall’s performance power that he took the artist under his wing. The following year, Charles signed Hall as the only other artist on his label Crossover Records. Following this major honor, Hall went on to work with Charles on the astounding album “Straight Ahead,” featuring an array of guest artists and garnering a top single “Gotta Get the Money” which landed at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Journalist Catherine Mabe said, Charles “appointed an heir apparent to his R&B throne.” Charles’s own manager, Joe Adams, made that out right statement at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts while introducing Hall as a stand-in performer for Charles, and declared that Hall was Charles’s protégé́.
Hall’s time with Charles, whom he fondly called Papa Ray, left an indelible impression. Following the icon’s death in 2004, he created a show in honor of The Master called “A Tribute to Ray Charles, Motown, and Beyond.” He envisioned it as homage to his mentor that would celebrate their shared R&B roots and deep passion for the heart and soul of music. Hall has realized this vision by performing key Motown and Ray Charles hits (Ellis-ized with his own soulful style) with symphony orchestras across the US and Canada. He considers the show not an imitation or emulation, but a soul celebration, and includes his own original works for the enjoyment of his audience.
Since 2006, Hall has entertained thousands of music lovers performing with various symphonies, including the Nashville, Tucson, Honolulu, Long Beach, Houston, Memphis, Cincinnati, San Diego, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Edmonton Orchestras. Since 2010, Hall has also been invited back to his hometown on multiple occasions to perform with the Boston Pops Orchestra. In 2013, he headlined at the 40th July 4th Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. Ellis has worked with some of the world’s most well-known conductors, including Marvin Hamlisch, Bob Bernhardt, William Eddins, Keith Lockhart, Jeff Tyzik, and Steve Reineke of the New York Philharmonic. Following a performance in 2010, it was Tyzik who first referred to Hall as the “Ambassador of Soul”, after Ellis had jokingly commented, “I spent a lot of time working on my ambassadorship.” The moniker stuck.
Hall’s passion for music has also led him to share his powerful vocals over the years on a variety of other projects. He was a lead voice in the animated blues/soul band The California Raisins, and the whimsical Beetlejuice for a Universal Studios show. A versatile talent, Hall is a star of numerous film soundtracks, including The Lion King 2, Chicken Run, Shrek 2, A Bug’s Life, Bruce Almighty, Beneath the Darkness, and Invincible. He has even had acting roles in the box office hits “Big Momma’s House” and “Catch Me If You Can.” He also served as advisor to Jamie Foxx on the set of the movie Ray.
Hall has played for several notable luminary’s including; Oprah Winfrey, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Rose Kennedy, and the late Nelson Mandela, who was a declared fan of his work. Ellis performed music from the Oscar Winning film Chicago at the 75th annual Academy Awards alongside, Catherine ZetaJones, and Queen Latifah. He had the distinct honor of performing at Helen Keller’s funeral and was specifically requested by former President William Jefferson Clinton to perform at his first inauguration ceremony. Ellis Hall has truly made his mark in music and entertainment. His vibrancy and zest for life and music can be summed up in a word he considers his motto: “Chakalaka!”
He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and manager, or “wife-ager” as he fondly calls her, Leighala Jimenez-Hall.