Biography of Elissa Lala, vocalist and lyricist
If one had to describe the jazz vocal style of Elissa Lala in just three words, they would be "passionate," "evocative," and "distinctive."
The daughter of a professional trombonist, Elissa Lala grew up in Philadelphia and began singing professionally at the age of five. By the time she was in her early teens, Elissa was doing background vocal sessions at Philly's then explosive Sigma Sound Studios. Although heavily influenced by R&B, she'd be quietly singing Michel Legrand's "You Must Believe in Spring" while walking the Philly streets to that all girl Italian high school. Cleo Laine's rendition of the ballad hit her hard.
And as if this wasn't different enough, Elissa struggled privately with a hearing impairment that she became quite good at hiding during a very non pro-active parental generation. The impairment miraculously never affected her pitch, yet would she be able to hear that piano intro if the piano was positioned across the room during those television tapings? It always seemed to all work out.
Falling in love with jazz guitarist Johnnie Valentino made the jazz thing stick all the more. They performed together at every major venue on the east coast, eventually getting married and moving to Los Angeles.
Not long after moving to LA, Elissa was invited up to sing at a popular Burbank studios jazz club, where Aaron Spellings' music supervisor heard her and was moved. He hired her to sing "All the Things You Are" for the ABC miniseries Crossings, and Elissa's voice was heard throughout the world. Thus began more film and TV studio work with credits such as Dirty Dancin', The World's Greatest Magic Show, The True Story of Bonnie and Clyde, and a host of A&E documentaries.
A severe bout with tinnitus led to more hearing loss that is now treated with the use of digital hearing instruments and really dramatically changed Elissa's life for the better in many ways. Elissa became so interested in learning about hearing loss that Elissa became trained in hearing instrument fitting. She has help hundreds of hearing-impaired children and adults hear better through the use of digital hearing instruments.
Another one of Elissa's passions is writing lyrics for pieces such as Ralph Towner's "I Knew It Was You." Elissa has written and/or recorded with Blue Note recording artist Pat Martino, Narada Michael Walden, Michel Legrand, Alex Acunña, Tommy Tedesco, and Bennie Maupin.
Her approach to improvisation is fresh, moving, and very in the moment, whether documented on CD, or live. So much so, that at her last performance at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, individual listeners were moved to their feet intermittently throughout the night.
Elissa's newest project is on OmniTone, entitled Touch of Your Voice: New Takes on Chet Baker. Touch is a deep and melancholic project which consists mostly of beautiful ballads recorded by Chet Baker and two originals composed by Johnnie Valentino and Elissa. Frank Tafuri of OmniTone Records said it simply enough: "I thought there were no authentic jazz vocalists left, until I heard Elissa." Elissa's previous recordings are Eternal Now (Insight) and Promises of the Heart (Four Winds).