Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Gahnt, Ella (b. Ella M. Hilton)
Gahnt, Ella (b. Ella M. Hilton), vocalist, arranger; b. Philadelphia, PA, 7 May 1949. Her mother, Mollie M. Hilton, is 88 years-old. Her father, William E. Hilton, died when Ella was 4. She has three sisters, Etta Hilton-Caison, Mary M. Hilton (deceased) and Blanche Hilton-Harris. Her husband is Leon Mitchell, composer, arranger, music contractor, pianist and saxophonist, leader of Philadelphia Legends of Jazz Orchestra
Ella Gahnt (rhymes with "DuPont") has been performing professionally since the age of 18 and is finally living her dream by performing the songs she loves. Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, graduated from Philadelphia Public Schools and attended Community College, she has studied piano, voice, guitar, saxophone, and music theory at Granoff and Settlement Music schools, and continues private instruction with Leon Mitchell - composer, arranger, vocal coach, and musical director of The Philadelphia Legends of Jazz Orchestra. Ella has worked as vocalist and music copyist on recordings with many popular artists like Grover Washington, Jr., The Stylistics, and Pieces of a Dream.
Ella was founder/leader, lead and background vocalist, and arranger for Instruments and Voices, an excellent pop/jazz group that performed in the Philadelphia area and appeared regularly on the "City Lights" TV show. She has performed as a jazz vocalist throughout the Delaware Valley with many fine jazz groups including The Cullen Knight Trio, The Philadelphians Big Band, The Sam Reed Quartet, The Roger Prieto Sextet, Tony Williams & Friends, The Sam Dockery Trio, and The Butch Ballard Trio. Ella performed at the '96 CoreStates "Philly Divas of Jazz, Poetry and Comedy" concert with Evelyn Simms, Barbara Walker, Michal Beckham, Sandra Barnes, and Erma Holmes. She performed with The Gerald Smith Quartet at the '97 PECO Energy "Jazz 'til Sunrise" Festival, and at the '97 Philly Fall Festival of Jazz.
Ella has also appeared as vocalist with the Webb Thomas Trio at the quintessential Zanzibar Blue, as a regular at Meiji-en Restaurant, Center City's Beaujolais Bistro, at the Annenberg Zellerbach Theatre in Philadelphia, and in full concert at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, and Haverford College, Haverford, PA with The Dr. Jay Trio featuring Dr. Jay Fluellen on piano. Ella and The Dr. Jay Trio were also featured as part of the 1999 Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival and the 1999 and 2000 Mellon Jazz Festivals. Ella has performed as part of a duo with Bill Meek at the lovely Sofitel Hotel, at the 2000 "Scatfight" at The Clef Club in Philadelphia along with Suzanne Cloud, Denise King, and Evelyn "Mama Diva" Simms, with her quartet at the 2001 Philadelphia Unemployment Project Fund Raiser, and she became the vocalist with the Philadelphia Legends of Jazz Orchestra, which was featured on the 2000 and 2001 Mellon Jazz Festival at the Clef Club. The Legends perform in concert at the Clef Club every other month.
Immaculate Union (with The Dr. Jay Trio) (2002); 1978-1980 as R&B Backup vocalist on recordings by 4-Tops, Dramatics, 5-Special, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
2002 - appeared on "Mother Dot's Philadelphia" WYBE-TV documentary about Jazz spots in Philly now gone (from Dottie Smith's view)
1975-1980 Appeared on 3 different segments as vocalist/leader with "Instruments & Voices" vocal group on "City Lights, " Philly-based TV variety show