About Kiki Ebsen
Kiki Ebsen is a dynamic singer, songwriter, musician and artist who combines elements of jazz, pop, classical and rock with beloved Great American songbook standards, classic rock covers and her own uniquely original compositions. For over 20 years, Ebsen was heralded as a talented vocalist and gifted keyboard player, supporting Grammy-winning and platinum-selling artists, including Christopher Cross, Al Jarreau, Tracy Chapman, Michael McDonald, and Boz Scaggs.
Best known today as a popular solo singer and ensemble vocalist, Kiki performs regularly in three productions she created: “To Dad with Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen” a multimedia jazz/cabaret homage to her father, "An Evening with Kiki Ebsen," which combines her original songs and uniquely styled covers and standards with eloquent stories. She also performs with the "Joni Mitchell Project," a collection of top Los Angeles players including Grant Geissman, Terry Wollman, Matt Starr and Steven Lawrence. Together they perform a wide variety of songs penned by the iconic Joni Mitchell.
Early Immersion in Music, Dance and Theatre —Acting and The Family Tradition
Songs such as “Missing You,” “Comes Love” and “St. Louis Blues” performed in concert today reflect a mutual appreciation that grew between Kiki and Buddy. Kiki loves singing the songs her father always insisted were perfectly suited for her.
Kiki’s mother, Nancy, was a Vassar-educated actress who toured as a singer with highly respected chorales. Sharing her love of theatre with her children, Nancy directed children’s theatre for many years. Nancy’s multifaceted talents as a classically trained singer and concert pianist also included writing, producing and directing plays. She offered her children opportunities to work in front of, and behind, the scenes but they had to earn their parts through strongly competitive audition. Like her mother, Kiki loves performing and has been on stage all her life.
In 1980 Nancy founded and led the Newport Harbor Actors Theatre in Orange County. Kiki’s acting skills have served her well, not to mention her stints as a student at the Ebsen School of Dance founded by her Aunt Vilma, Buddy Ebsen’s sister and original dance partner. “Growing up Ebsen” offered exposure to international travel, art, music, great books, the theatre and all creative expression.
Early Education and Training
Kiki’s academic career included immersion in art studies, logic, and creativity at the prestigious, arts-focused Oakwood School in Southern California. In addition to school productions, several of which Nancy directed, more stage opportunities arrived during summer and holiday tours as part of the “Ebsen Family Band,” an ensemble led by her father, Buddy, which included three sisters and her younger brother. They performed a vaudeville show on California college campuses and in adult retirement communities, especially on holidays when many seniors would be alone.
While enrolled at Agoura High School, Kiki found plenty of time to successfully balance academics while playing in garage bands across popular Hollywood teen spots, further establishing her love of music performance. Soon after graduation, Kiki established her first professional band, Chadwick. Both Buddy and Nancy proudly affirmed their youngest daughter’s new showcase; Buddy mentioned it in several national interviews as he also noted son Dustin’s drumming talents.
Ultimately, when Kiki began her studies at California Institute of the Arts, her other vocal gifts and performing talents were immediately recognized. During an audition for a chorale, Kiki’s full vocal range was revealed, and professors immediately encouraged her to sing opera and prepare for a career in classical vocal performance and concert piano. Kiki pursued both with passion and skill, earning her B.F.A. in Vocal Performance.
In 1984 Kiki was named Collegiate Entertainer of the Year, in a nationwide competition, immediately after graduating from CalArts. It was a contest similar to the one that Richard and Karen Carpenter won, where they first came to national attention. Kiki’s first prize also included a substantial matching gift to the Herb Alpert School of Music at Cal Arts, as it is known today.
Recordings and Artist Development
Ebsen's 1994 inaugural jazz CD, “Red,” was produced by respected smooth jazz producer Paul Brown. The release featured performances from Boney James, Buzz Feiten and Paul Jackson, Jr. on Kiki’s songs. Two songs from this debut album, “My Desire” and “Half a Chance,” were on the NAC Top 25, and “Kiss Me Again” was in the JRAC Top 50 of radio airplay.
|“My Desire”||(NAC Top 25)|
|“Half A Chance “||(NAC Top 25)|
|"Diamond in the Dust"||(NAC Top 25)|
|"Kiss Me Again"||(JASRAC Top 50)|
|“Say A Little Prayer”||(Fusion Flavors Best of 2005)|
|“If I Only Had A Brain”||(Smooth Jazz Top 50)|
|“Cool Songs, vol. 1”||2005|
|“The Beauty Inside”||2011|
Her sophomore effort, “Love Loud,” made it into Muse's "Muse Top 10" of 2002, filled with powerful, poignant songs of self-reflection. She later reunited with Paul Brown to record “Kiki,” which made Steve Quirk's “Fusion Flavors Best of 2005” list.
In 2005 Kiki released “Cool Songs Vol. 1,” featuring her preferred arrangements covering classic pop tunes, such as "Time After Time," "It's Too Late," and "Diary." Kiki's music also appears on several international compilations.
Her signature 2011 release, “The Beauty Inside,” produced by Mark Browne, fully revealed Ebsen’s powerful vocals and ability to communicate boundless joy and eternal heartache in words and music. This CD launched her solo tours as she was invited to numerous venues to basically perform the album.
Kiki is also a television vet, appearing with The Al Jarreau Band on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “The Arsenio Hall Show” before embarking on a world tour. The band featured future stars including N'Dea Davenport (Brand New Heavies), Rickey Minor (“American Idol,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”), and Felicia Collins (“Late Show with David Letterman”). Additional TV credits include performances with Take Six, Blake Shelton, Glen Campbell, Michelle Branch, Robert Goulet, Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Womack, Gloria Estefan, Kenny Loggins, Melissa Etheridge, and Patty Griffin.
Her compositions have been recorded by respected jazz musicians Eric Marienthal, Boney James and Jessy J. Kiki has contributed vocals for on Eric Marienthal's album “One Touch” (GRP Records, 1993) in the song, "That's the Way," a song co-written by Dave Koz, Ebsen, and Randy Hall. Ebsen's composition, "Blue," is included on Boney James' “Backbone” album (Warner Brothers, 1994), featuring James on tenor saxophone and Ebsen on keyboards. Saxophonist Jessy J. included Ebsen's composition, "Turquoise Street" on her album Tequila Moon (Peak/Concord, 2008). Kiki’s complete discography is here.
Creating “Scarecrow Sessions” and “To Dad with Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen”
In 2012, going through an overlooked box of her mother’s keepsakes, Kiki discovered a collection of old scripts, playbills and photos that gave her insight into her father’s career before she’d been born. Ebsen was so moved by what she found that she was inspired to record a CD as a tribute to her father. Working with respected arranger David Mann, the duo produced Kiki’s most recent (sixth) CD, “Scarecrow Sessions” (Painted Pony Media, 2014) comprised of the music of Buddy Ebsen’s film and stage career. The album features John Patitucci (bass) and Chuck Loeb (guitar), Henry Hey (piano), Clint De Ganon (drums), with Mann contributing his signature style on saxophone.
Ebsen oversees her nonprofit, The Healing Equine Ranch, founded to inspire human growth and awareness to promote healing. Kiki teaches natural horsemanship and has created multiple educational programs for students of all ages.
Photo by Sylvie Belmond
Notable recent performances include the Laguna Festival of the Arts, The Long Beach Aquarium, The Maui Music Festival, Java Jazz Festival, Waikaloa Music and Wine Festival, Tin Pan South, Pacific Rim Jazz Festival, KSBR Birthday Bash, The KIFM Anniversary Party, The California Saga, and the Temecula Music and Wine Festival. In 2016 she was featured on the Divine Jazz Cruise with Michael Paulo, Ray Parker, Jr., and Gregg Karukas. Kiki debuts with the Pasadena Pops this summer under the direction of Larry Blank. She also headlines the Eclectic Festival in South Pasadena with her Joni Mitchell Project May 6th.
Community and Nonprofit Activities
Ebsen’s schedule frequently includes lending her time and talents to charitable fundraisers for causes close to her heart. Recent concert events have benefited Project Angel Food, MusiCares, Autism Speaks, WeSpark Cancer Support Network, Laguna Niguel Community Theatre, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, Treepeople, The Beauty Bus, Project Play & The Rescue Train, Paw Works, Easter Seals and Children Are Our Future.
Kiki continues to host regular live/broadcast concert events from her Healing Equine Ranch, proceeds furthering natural equine interactive growth and healing. Her love of creating music remains ever strong.
-The Creative Vortex Media Group