Elena Gilliam, a self-professed late bloomer, is quickly becoming celebrated as an extraordinary jazz vocalist of our time. This became apparent after delivering a sensational show at the KKJZ 88.1 2018 Summer Jazz Series held at the Segerstrom Center for The Arts in Costa Mesa, CA and followed by a sold out performance at the Fall 2018 SoCal Jazz and Wine Festival in Orange, CA. Elena polished her remarkable vocal style over the years as she found her spotlight in countless local venues and notable showcases; the Hyatt Newporter Jazz Festival, the KKJZ 88.1 Jazz and Blues Sunday Brunch at the Hollywood Lowes, Spaghettini Grill & Jazz Club in Seal Beach, The Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach, the Festival of the Arts Laguna Beach Tivoli Terrace summer jazz series to name a few.
“Elena is a true Jazz Vocalist!” quotes admired pianist/band leader/educator Ron Kobayashi (credits; Mel Torme/Kenny Burrell), one of Elena’s many outstanding “side musicians”. She continuously surrounds herself with award winning musicians; George Gilliam guitarist, Living Legend of Jazz Awardee (LLJ) (Music Director/Arranger), Michael Le Van pianist (Current Music Director/Composer/Arranger), Henry “The Skipper” Franklin, bass, LLJ (Hugh Masekela/Gene Harris/Stevie Wonder) Paul Kreibich, drummer, (Ray Charles/Gene Ammons), John Ferraro, drummer (Burt Bacharach/David Benoit), Jane Getz, pianist (Dale Fielder Quartet/Charles Mingus), Llew Matthews (Nancy Wilson’s musical arranger/director), Donald Dean, drummer, LLJ (Art Pepper/Les McCann/Eddie Harris), Luther Hughes, bass (Gene Harris/Carmen MacRae), Dr. Bobby Rodriguez, trumpet (Quincy Jones/Poncho Sanchez), Bruce Lett, bass (Diane Schuur/Nancy Wilson) and more!
Elena truly believes that performing nurtured and empowered her character, which can in turn help teenagers and young adults needing a positive focus.
Currently volunteering for RYTMO (Reaching Youth Through Music Opportunities) a non-profit organization in Anaheim, CA, Elena shares her performance knowledge with at risk youth. In 2013, she was awarded the Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation Artist Outreach Project Grant, allowing her to volunteer for Crittenton Family Services in Fullerton, CA, where she developed and taught performance workshop programs. Elena also continues to share her talents by helping young jazz artists through the development an annual jazz concert “Young Lions and Old Tigers of Jazz.”
Her intention is to promote young jazz artists and bridge the generations for the preservation of this significant American art form.
Elena’s recording career has varied widely over the years. From Big Band arrangements to private producers and then her own CD in 2008 with her gifted husband George Gilliam. Moments in Time with the George Gilliam Quartet, was a “swinging” expression of their special musical journey. Her current recording Then Another Turns is a powerhouse of vocal expression. It includes remarkable standards with fresh arrangements, a turn at the blues with a Bessie Smith song and an remarkable original composition by Michael Le Van, her brilliant music director with lyrics by Bill Montemer.
Elena is just hitting her stride as she reaches unbelievable new heights of lyrical expression. Her natural style, versatility and energy is relished by her strong following. She’s the “genuine article” the “real deal” as lauded by her fans, and fellow musicians alike! Let your heart be embraced by the depth of her beautiful sound.